Much has been said about the Dallas Cowboys’ two-headed rushing attack of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The New York Giants, who will try to stop the Cowboys this weekend down in Dallas, will be unleashing their own “Batman and Robin” rushing duo to help corral the Cowboys’ potent offense.
“Batman” is Saquon Barkley, who has 186 yards on a team-leading 52 rushing attempts through four games, and two touchdowns.
Barkley, who lost most of last season due to a torn ACL, has looked more and more like his pre-injury self with each passing week, the most substantial signs yet of his full recovery coming in last week’s win against the New Orleans Saints.
In that game, Barkley rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries and added 74 receiving yards on five catches, including a huge 54-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Barkley, who also scored on a 6-yard rushing touchdown against the Saints, became the fourth player this season to have one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown in the same game. He joined Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson, Green Bay’s Aaron Jones, and Los Angeles Chargers Austin Ekeler.
“He’s just a really good player,” said Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. “He’s a really good player as a runner. His ability to run the ball inside like we saw the other day, to make space plays in the running game.”
With his next 100-yard rushing performance, Barkley, who already has 11 such showings, will tie Ahmad Bradshaw for the fifth-most 100-yard rushing games in Giants history.
The “Robin” to Barkley’s “Batman” in the running game has been the most unlikely of people: Quarterback Daniel Jones, who leads the team in rushing yards with 188 (two more than Barkley).
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Jones, who came to the Giants with a reputation of being a fine athlete in the open field, has already established a franchise record—that in Week 2 of this season—for the most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (since 1960) with 95 yards on nine attempts (10.6 avg.), including one rushing touchdown.
Jones also became just the seventh quarterback since 2010 with at least 200 passing yards, 90 rushing yards, one passing touchdown, and one rushing touchdown in a game.
And if all that isn’t impressive enough, Jones’s 7.0 yards-per-carry rushing average leads all NFL players who have logged at least 25 carries.
“I just think he’s made progress over the last year and a half that we’ve been with him,” offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said.
“I think he’s getting a better understanding of what we’re asking him to do, what defenses are trying to do to us and he’s seeing the field and he’s making a lot of good decisions.”
The development of Jones as a runner has helped the Giants open up the passing game a bit more in that terms are now starting to stack the box with eight or more men because of the threat Jones poses with his legs.
“Yeah, you could see how defenses will attack the run game, especially in the RPO, but that’s what football is for,” Barkley said.
The Giants developing rushing punch could be just what the doctor ordered this week as New York looks to extend its 2021 winning streak to two games against a red-hot Dallas Cowboys team who has won its last three in a row and who currently sit atop of the NFC East race.
The Cowboys have dominated the time of possession this year against opponents, holding the ball for an average of 31:10, the tenth-best mark in the league.
If the Giants can grind down the clock with their running game, that will go a long way toward keeping Elliott and Pollard, quarterback Dak Prescott and the rest of that explosive Cowboys offense on the sideline.
“You’ve got to be a team that can do it all,” Barkley said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball. In the passing game, there’s going to be some games where the run game takes over and we’ll win the game like that.”