Expect teams to target this weakness in Saquon Barkley's game

Terez Paylor
Senior NFL writer

Whenever the great Saquon Barkley rushes for 1 yard on 13 carries — like he did in the New York Giants’ brutal 34-27 loss Sunday to the New York Jets — it’s worth examining the reasons why.

So I did that, and I briefly covered what the Jets did to contain Barkley in the video above, which was expertly stitched together by my main man Ron Schiltz.

A concerning pattern emerged: Saquon’s pass protection.

Barkley is coming back from a high ankle sprain and he hasn't looked the same since. This is affecting him in his pass protection, as he has struggled to anchor with his usual power. And as I detailed in the video above, teams have noticed. 

It will be crucial for Barkley to heal up this week during the bye. New York’s next opponent, the Chicago Bears, own the league’s fifth-best defense, according to DVOA. They’ll be itching to take advantage of this by bringing blitzers at Barkley.

Giants QB Daniel Jones (8) isn't getting adequate protection on pass plays from running back Saquon Barkley (26). (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How the Browns used Kareem Hunt

Heading into the Cleveland Browns’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, there was lots of talk about how the Browns would incorporate Kareem Hunt into the offense following his eight-game suspension to start the year.

Would they do so at the expense of Nick Chubb, the Browns’ best offensive weapon? Not really.

Hunt is a former Pro Bowl back, but the Browns shouldn’t get him involved at the expense of Chubb. And if his first game back is any indication, they won’t have to.

Against the Bills, Chubb logged 81 percent of the offensive snaps — 8 percent higher than his season average — while Hunt got 54 percent. Both were featured on several plays together, in some smart ways, too. Hunt as a lead blocker, runner and receiver.

It’s clear that the Browns can use both on the field at the same time:

The unselfishness of Hunt, who finished with four carries for 30 yards and, more interestingly, caught seven of nine targets for 44 yards (including two first downs), stood out to teammates.

“That shows the type of person he is,” Chubb said. “He knew the game plan the whole week. The whole game plan was mostly him lead blocking for me, and he did not complain and he did not say anything. He understood what it was. He went out there and he just did everything he was asked, and he had fun doing it.”

As long as it stays that way, the dynamics between these two uber-talented players won’t be a problem.

Clelin Ferrell is showing signs of life

Over the first eight games of the season, I worried about Oakland Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell, the No. 4 overall pick in the last NFL draft.

The Raiders shocked everyone when they selected Ferrell instead of Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen, and over the first half of the season, it looked like a mistake as Allen has racked up an impressive seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits compared to Ferrell’s 3½ and five, despite Ferrell playing 11 more snaps.

Ferrell’s big game last Thursday against the Chargers — in which he logged eight tackles, 2½ sacks and three QB hits — played a huge role in making those stats look presentable:

“Sack totals are driving me nuts — he does a lot more than just rush the passer,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He made some great plays against the run. It was a signature game for him obviously, but it’s great for him to get some sacks. Maybe some of the people who are counting sacks out there will acknowledge this.”

It’s not just about sacks — it’s about pressure. And while Ferrell has been OK against the run, they didn’t draft him that high to be a run defender.

Let’s hope we can see him become that pass rushing menace over the next seven games because at least one teammate recognized that Thursday’s performance was a big one.

“Clelin needed that,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “A lot of people have been saying this or that but it doesn’t matter. Clelin came out, he balled out. Did what he’s supposed to do. It was huge for us.”

And it will continue to be the rest of the season in a suddenly tight AFC West.

Here, here to two-way players!

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has a saying: it ain’t hard being a football player if you’re a football player. Yes, it’s Neanderthalic. But it speaks to the fact that some guys are just built to play the game, meaning they’re tough, physical and athletic. 

In the NFL, when you see a two-way player — someone on offense and defense — that guy is absolutely a football player. The game is so demanding, so difficult, that specialization is required. Guys have a hard enough time learning their jobs at one position, let alone two. 

So three cheers for Baltimore fullback/defensive tackle Patrick Ricard, a 6-foot-3, 303-pound former undrafted free agent who has carved out a helluva niche for the Ravens. On Sunday, Ricard played 18 offensive snaps and 12 defensive snaps in a blowout of the Cincinnati Bengals, and he made them count, logging four tackles and a strip-sack:

Ricard has played 26 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps this season — where he’s provided strong blocking — and 22 percent of their defensive snaps, where he is effective against the run and the pass. 

It’s no coincidence his coach shouted him out Wednesday.

“Once we saw him and had a feel for what he was capable of doing … I'd say, probably, by the end of training camp the first year we had a vision for him,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He's just done spectacular with it, and he continues to improve in every area. He's a valuable part of our team.”

How a massive bust is turning it around in Tampa

I was a big fan of Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones heading into the 2018 NFL draft. But after a historically atrocious rookie season in which he rushed 23 times for 44 yards — a miserable 1.9 yards per carry — Jones appears to be getting into the swing of things under new coach Bruce Arians.

This season, the former USC speedster has rushed 103 times for 410 yards — an average of 4 yards per carry — and four touchdowns, while also catching 16 of 19 targeted passes for 201 yards. He has been trending upward of late despite a lost fumble Sunday against Arizona. He logged a career-high eight receptions for 77 yards against the Cardinals and looked dangerous in his second game as a starter:

Don’t be surprised if you see Jones, who also rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown Sunday, continue to get involved in the passing game. If he can serve as a check-down weapon for the turnover-prone Jameis Winston, it will go a long way toward helping the Bucs control the clock and limit losing plays.

Say Watt?

Guess who leads the NFL in quarterback hits?

It’s not Joey Bosa. It’s not Nick Bosa. It’s not Jadeveon Clowney.

It’s a Watt, but not the one you think. After a strong 2018 campaign in which he registered 13 sacks and 21 quarterback hits, Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt, a third-year pro, is on pace to blow both of those numbers away in 2019. 

He leads the NFL with 22 quarterback hits and his 9½ sacks rank fifth in the league for the 5-4 Steelers, who were powered to their most recent win on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams by a killer five-tackle, two-sack outing from Watt:

J.J. Watt is incredible, a future Hall of Famer (I feel comfortable saying that as a HOF voter). But it’s time we start considering the possibility that he may not be the best football player in the family anymore.

One of the hardest-thrown passes you'll ever see

Patrick Mahomes’ stunning jump-pass in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans got all the attention, and rightfully so: it was the highlight-reel play we’ve come to expect from the reigning MVP.

However, Mahomes made another throw on the Chiefs’ final drive that really opened my eyes, which is tough to do since I’ve seen every throw of his career.  

It came on first-and-10 at K.C.’s 38-yard line, with the Chiefs down three and only 17 seconds left on the clock. The Chiefs needed a big gain quickly, and the Titans were playing soft coverage while rushing only two men. It was going to take a killer throw to get a downfield completion. Then Mahomes did this:

This was just a rocket. It might be the hardest pass I’ve seen him throw. It was Brett Favre-like.

After missing two games with a dislocated kneecap, Mahomes — who threw for 446 yards — is back to himself.

The Keith Jackson Call of the Week

Like there was any other choice. Presented by the great Kevin Harlan, calling the run of the year from one of the NFL’s three most exciting players:

Moments like this make you love football. See ya next week.

More from Yahoo Sports: