As the Indianapolis Colts look to continue their playoff push, they will be hosting the New York Giants and their superstar running back in rookie Saquon Barkley.
In spite of a poor offensive line for the majority of his first season, Barkley has carried the Giants offense in a spectacular way. In 14 games thus far, the No. 2 overall pick has taken 223 carries for 1,155 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
He’s also an incredible pass catcher, having logged 82 receptions for 654 yards and four touchdowns. Among running backs, Barkley is second in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and tied for eighth in touchdown catches.
The Colts have seen some solid running backs, but Barkley presents an unprecedented challenge the unit has yet to face this season.
In recent weeks, the Colts defense has turned into one of the best units in the NFL. Relying on speed, execution and effort, Indy surprisingly is a top 10 unit in DVOA rankings during the second half of the season.
They proved that in Week 15 by shutting down Ezekiel Elliott and while he’s elite in his own right, there is a valid argument that Barkley has more of an impact and has been able to do more with less support.
The Colts’ run defense has been stout in the second half of the season. Not only have they been successfully setting the edge, but the play of linebackers Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker has pushed the Colts to another level.
Even with that, Barkley is a unique talent who transcends his supporting cast. He creates yards out of nothing mainly due to his incredible ability to break tackles and work through initial contact.
The Giants are blessed with a running back that possesses ideal size, speed, vision and balance. Regardless of zone or gap blocking schemes, Barkley is going to find ways to gain yardage on the majority of his runs.
As a runner alone, Barkley presents a tough challenge, but the Colts then have to worry about the rookie being used as a pass catcher. The Giants will be looking to get Barkley the ball in space. He can catch passes out of the backfield, split out wide or catch passes from the slot.
The easiest way to contain Barkley will be to swarm to the ball. He’s good for a few broken tackles, but if the defense can have multiple defenders closing in, it should keep him from breaking off huge runs.
This is a great test to see where the Colts defense is against one of the best running backs in the NFL that presents a challenge Indy has yet to see this season.