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Atwater: Broncos’ defense can take care of Barkley, Bridgewater can take care of business

The Hall-of-Fame safety doesn’t see much success for the running back against Denver’s line, nor the Giants’ defense being able to rattle the Broncos.

Cleveland Browns Training Camp Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Saquon Barkley was one of Steve Atwater’s favorites coming out of the 2018 draft - calling him the kind of game-changer that the Broncos should draft if he were on the board at five. But once the running back was drafted by the Giants second overall, Atwater had no more time for Barkley.

“It’s done. I moved on,” Atwater joked on Broncos Country Tonight with Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright.

But the Hall-of-Famer still has a lot of love for Barkley, who is expected to play at least some in the Giants’ opener against the Broncos Sunday.

When Edwards asked why Atwater thinks Barkley is so good, he skipped right on over to the Broncos’ defense.

“The question is why are Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson so good?” And before the hosts could follow up, Atwater was leading cheers as if he were at Mile High Stadium. “Let’s go KJACK! Let’s go J-SIMMS!”

Pressed on if he highlighted the safeties because he thinks those will be the prime guys to stop No. 26, Atwater continued the hype for a different group.

“He’s not getting through the D-LINE AND THE LINEBACKERS!”

So Edwards asked how the defense should play the game-changer, and it’s worth the price of admission to listen to the way Atwater coos, “physically” before the room erupts into laughter (8:15 mark).

“He’s going to be coming,” Atwater added, noting that it’s unlikely Barkley is playing up to his elite level in the first game back after a year off from an ACL injury. Particularly for running backs with all the plants and cutbacks, it takes a while to get back to your old self. But still, he’ll be a threat.

The biggest question mark for the offense - other than perhaps quarterback Daniel Jones - will be the Giants’ offensive line, something Allbright claimed “had the effective blocking power of a junior high pep banner as the team is about to run through it.”

Allbright pointed out, however, that the Giants’ offensive production with Barkley on the field tripled, and Daniel Jones’ play action passer rating increased 22 points when Barkley was in the game.

But as Edwards noted with some other key stats, the Giants’ defense may be the bigger unit to pay attention to for the Broncos. Last season the Giants’ D ended up 12th in net yards per game, 9th in yards per play, 9th in points per play, 10th in net rushing yards, 4th in fumble recoveries, 10th in takeaways overall and 2nd in red zone defense just behind...the Denver Broncos.

Atwater definitely thinks the Broncos’ D is still stronger with better players, but he also believes Teddy Bridgewater is going to be able to help the offense overcome that strength.

“Our offense has more talent. I think Teddy Bridgewater will come in here and be methodical about the drives and getting the ball to the right players at the right time. Just being a good quarterback,” Atwater said, noting that he’ll be consistent. “Last year, Drew just couldn’t get it done for the entire course of the season, and I think Teddy will do a much better job even though he hasn’t been running this offense for a super long time, but I think he’ll be a big force for us.”

Poll

Which will be more important for good play in order to beat the Giants?

  • 53%
    Bridgewater and the offense
    (254 votes)
  • 18%
    Broncos’ D-line, linebackers pressuring Jones
    (89 votes)
  • 11%
    Broncos’ D stopping Saquon Barkley
    (55 votes)
  • 15%
    Special teams not losing the game
    (74 votes)
472 votes total Vote Now