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Giants’ Mike Kafka getting creative to set Saquon Barkley up

Mike Kafka must come home with an empty bucket on Halloween. 

If the choice is trick-or-treat, it’s a no-brainer for the Giants’ offensive coordinator, as the first six opponents can attest. Whether it’s direct snaps to Saquon Barkley, three-halfback formations, a reverse handoff with a pass option for tight end Daniel Bellinger or more, Kafka is deep into his bag of tricks. 

“The beauty of our staff is that it’s a melting-pot staff from a bunch of different teams, and [we] have a ton of experience,” Kafka said. “The collaboration part of that is you might see a look, present it to the staff, and someone might already have experience in that and know maybe where the bones are buried on the play, whether good or bad. Then, you can prepare, show, add something from someone else.” 

Kafka isn’t counting on catching opponents napping. In a high-alert situation — with the Giants at the Ravens’ 13-yard line, trailing by three points with 2:45 to go — Barkley took a direct snap, pitched to quarterback Daniel Jones, who faked a reverse pitch and threw a 7-yard completion. 

Saquon Barkley rushes during the Giants' win over the Ravens.
Saquon Barkley rushes during the Giants’ win over the Ravens.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post
Mike Kafka
Mike Kafka has gotten creative with how he uses Saquon Barkley.
Robert Sabo for the NY POST

“One of the Ravens defenders thought I had the ball,” Barkley said. “I was just like, ‘I must have done my job kind of right.’ I really wasn’t trying to sell the fake. It keeps them on their heels. It’s something that you can use to your advantage. I feel like we are going to continue to do that, and it’s up to us as players. They can get as creative as they want, but we’ve got to go out there and make it work.” 

Reality is the Giants’ offense needs an element of trickery to overcome playmaker deficiencies. Barkley leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (771), so the creativity helps get defenses off keying on him because there is such a fall-off to Jones (221 yards) and Richie James (195). 

“There’s some of those types of plays that are built for a certain situation — short yardage, goal line — or [some] just kind of comes up in the flow of the game,” Kafka said. “Maybe earlier in the game, you go, ’Oh, look at that; this one is available now. It was the [defensive] look that we were looking for.’ There’s a little bit of getting the feel for the game, but then also, you absolutely have some that are just situational calls that you saw on tape that you can use.” 

The more Kafka installs, the more players are responding. 

“It’s fun when you present them and put them on the big screen and show them the tape,” he said. “You can definitely get guys excited.” 

Safeties Xavier McKinney (not injury related) and Jason Pinnock (ankle), CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf), WRs Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (hamstring), and OLB Oshane Ximines (quad) did not practice. McKinney was on the field and in the locker room after practice. 

Barkley (shoulder), C Jon Feliciano (groin), OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf) and LT Andrew Thomas (elbow) were limited in practice. 

“I play running back in the NFL, and kind of every time I touch the ball I’m getting hit in my shoulder,” Barkley said. “It’s really nothing that I’m really concerned about. Do I get worked on? Yeah, not just that, but all of my body.” 

Barkley missed 14 plays against the Packers after he first injured his shoulder and one against the Ravens after he “woke it up for a little bit.” 

The Giants have allowed two rushing touchdowns in six games. Both times — against the Cowboys and the Ravens — the defense was one player short at the snap. 

“It’s all part of building this thing,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “It’s communication through all of us, and we’re all responsible for it. We’ve just got to continue to work on our substitutions during the game. Sometimes, they’re bang-bang situations that guys have to be locked in and hear it.”

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