Giants need to counteract Commanders’ new defensive tactic in Week 6

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) carries the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants face a significant challenge in countering the Washington Commanders’ strong defensive unit as they prepare for the upcoming NFC East rivalry matchup on Sunday. The Giants have struggled to gain momentum on offense throughout the first six weeks of the season, and Washington will undoubtedly take advantage of their offensive weaknesses.

The Giants need to establish a running game

With star running back Saquon Barkley back in the lineup, Big Blue will try to establish their ground game early on.

Barkley has a history of success against Washington throughout his career accumulating 109 carries for 634 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and 32 receptions for 272 yards in seven games against the Commanders.

He is averaging 129.3 total scrimmage yards against this division rival in his career; however, Washington may finally have the right defensive tactic to shut down Barkley.

The Commanders are deploying a new defensive tactic

The Commanders are coming off a Week 6 win against the Atlanta Falcons. It is no secret that the Falcons are a run-dependent offense, and Washington was able to completely disrupt their ground game by running a defensive package they call the “Cinco” package.

With this strategy, they were able to hold standout rookie running back Bijan Robinson to just 13 carries for 37 yards and held the Falcons to just 106 rushing yards, which is their third-lowest total of the season.

The Commanders’ “Cinco” package

The “Cinco” package, also known as the 5-1-5 package, is a defensive formation where the defense uses five defensive linemen, five defensive backs, and just one linebacker between them. This package puts a third tackle, usually John Ridgeway, between fellow tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. This strategic alignment aims to create an impenetrable wall on the line of scrimmage while allowing the linebackers and safeties to roam freely and enforce coverage in the secondary.

By utilizing five defensive linemen, the defense gains a significant advantage at the line of scrimmage. Opposing offensive lines find it challenging to generate double teams against these powerful forces up front. This allows Pro Bowlers Allen and Payne to find themselves in advantageous one-on-one matchups that are incredibly difficult to block effectively making it hard for the offense to create gaps for running backs to utilize.

While the “Cinco” package poses a difficult challenge for offensive lines, it does have vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Washington Head Coach Ron Rivera himself has acknowledged that the formation won’t be as effective if opponents opt to drop back or execute play-action passes.

Can the Giants’ offensive line hold up?

With a weak Giants offensive line unable to effectively block a strong defensive front, the ground game will suffer. Barkley will likely find it difficult to find gaps and generate significant yardage; however, countering with a strong passing game can help exploit Washington’s weaknesses and capitalize on their vulnerable secondary.

To counteract Washington’s strong defensive front, Big Blue must incorporate play-action passes into their offensive strategy. Airing out the ball and taking advantage of a weak Washington secondary will be the key to success.

Who will start at quarterback?

There is uncertainty surrounding the availability of quarterback Daniel Jones for this contest. Even if he does suit up, Jones has struggled with releasing the ball quickly, which could prove disastrous against Washington’s disruptive pass rush. Washington’s ability to potentially halt the run implies that relying solely on Barkley to move the Giants down the field may not be a viable strategy.

If veteran backup Tyrod Taylor gets the nod to start, he must continue building on his momentum from his success in Week 6 and trust in his receivers to make plays. Taylor’s ability to make quick decisions and accurate throws will be vital in countering Washington’s defensive pressure.

While the Giants may face challenges on the ground due to Washington’s dominant run defense, they can find success by unleashing a potent passing attack. Whether it’s Jones or Taylor under center, making quick and accurate throws and incorporating play-action passes will be essential to secure a victory.