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Film Study: Will the Wayne Train run in the Meadowlands this season?

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What kind of role could Wayne Gallman have with the Giants in 2018?

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a long time since the New York Giants had a rookie enter training camp with as much excitement and anticipation as Saquon Barkley. The second overall pick’s incredible athleticism and highlight reel are enough to make any fan giddy.

The Giants have set their minds to fielding a renewed rushing attack, and publicly said as much. That reborn rushing attack will almost be certainly carried by Barkly, but he isn’t the only running back on the Giants roster. The team also has veteran free agent addition Jonathan Stewart and 2017 fourth-round pick Wayne Gallman as virtual locks to make the roster.

Considering his career and the contract to which he is signed, most are penciling Stewart in as Barkley’s principle backup and the Giants’ “change of pace” back. Given his size and ability to run between the tackles, it has widely been assumed that he would spell Barkley and tote the rock on short-yardage or goal-line downs.

So then, what does that leave for Gallman?

On the LockedOn Giants podcast, Patricia Traina (a regular contributor here at BBV) surmised that Gallman might take over Shane Vereen’s role as the third-down back. But, with his advanced (for a rookie) pass protection and receiving skills, that is a role that Barkley should be able to execute immediately. Keeping the same back on the field for all three downs offers a number of advantages. First and foremost, it doesn’t tip the offense’s hand as to what package of plays they might run, and the defense has to be prepared for a wider array of options. Secondly, keeping the same personnel grouping on the field for second and third down denies the defense the opportunity to substitute in no-huddle situations.

So then, what does that leave for Gallman? Let’s take a trip into the film room and see how his game might translate for Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula.

Running the ball

It wasn’t until the last quarter of the 2017 season that Gallman received consistent — but still limited — carries. But when he got the ball, he proved to be an efficient runner.

In weeks 14 and 15, Gallman averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 12 and 8 carries, respectively, then 5.9 yards per carry on 15 carries in week 17. Those efforts were broken up by only getting 1 carry in the Giants’ shutout against the Arizona Cardinals.

We’ll start by taking a look at the first run from the Giants’ week 14 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The play is a simple draw play from the shotgun formation, which Giants’ fans have come to know and loathe. It has the slight wrinkle of using Evan Engram as a fullback/H-Back, and is executed well.

The offensive line does a solid job of selling the pass set on the right side, inviting the defensive line up, while left guard John Jerry and center Brett Jones work the double team on the 3-technique to blow open the hole.

Sean Lee sees Engram shoot up through the gap and initially reacts by dropping into coverage before recognizing the run play. By that time, Engram is blocking him and there is a veritable alley through which Gallman can run.

For his part, Gallman shows the right combination of patience and determination that make these kinds of plays effective. He is slow behind the line of scrimmage, initially looking as though he might be staying in pass protection. But then secures the hand-off as he squares to the line of scrimmage before bursting through the hole.

Once through the hole, Gallman does a nice job of setting up Engram to sustain his block. Lee had, predictably, begun to discard Engram to make a play, but Gallman used his angle to keep the undersized tight end between himself and the All-Pro linebacker. He holds that angle just long enough to quickly dance around and make a burst for the third level, but is tackled in the process.

The run only went for six yards, but could have gone for more had Jones gotten off the double team a hair sooner.

Let’s spin this ahead a few weeks to the Giants’ Week 17 game against the Washington Redskins and take a look at a bit tougher run.

The Giants do something they did only rarely in previous seasons by lining up with Eli Manning under center, in the I formation, with a pair of tight ends attached at the line of scrimmage.

In short, the Giants show power run, and follow through.

Washington lines up on a 3-4 Over defense, with both linebackers on the line of scrimmage and a safety down at the second level, essentially creating a 5-3 front.

The Giants run an outside zone run to the right, and it appears as though the run is initially supposed to go through the right B-gap, between the right guard and right tackle. However, RT Adam Bisnowaty gets stood up and pushed back into the hole while Jon Halapio misses the block at the second level.

Gallman notices the collapsing hole immediately and elects to take the cutback lane to the left of center Brett Jones, who mauled the nose tackle. The running back does what he can, running behind his pads and trying to pick his way through the trash at the line of scrimmage. Ultimately, John Jerry misses his block at the left guard position, holding Gallman up, while the safety shoots the left B-gap to help bring him down from behind. It isn’t a flashy run, but this kind of hard-nosed, dedicated running makes for a nice change-up from explosive, frenetic style Barkley relied on in college.

Pass catching

Long before selecting Barkley in the 2018 NFL Draft, Pat Shurmur was asked about the running back position at the NFL Scouting Combine. Shurmur said, “I have a high opinion of what a running back brings to your offense. But I also have a very high opinion that guy has to be able to run the ball, be able to pass protect and has to be able to catch. That’s one of things we have to get better at, catching the football. The running back can be a huge weapon in the passing game.”

Gallman’s share of the offense could well depend on how well useful he is able to be in the passing game. He improved as the season wore on, to the point where he was a reliable option in the short to intermediate game or as a check-down. In the final quarter of the season, Gallman averaged 6 receptions for 41 yards — though he was inexplicably absent from the passing game in the Giants’ season finale.

Let’s take a look at one pass he did catch during that period, in the Giants’ Week 15 rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants are in an all-too-familiar look here, with their 11-personnel package in a 3x1 alignment, and Eli Manning in the shotgun formation. This is a 2nd and 15 after Manning was sacked for a 5-yard loss on first down.

The Eagles are in their 4-1-6 dime defense, showing a single high safety and off coverage while a pair of DBs play psuedo-linebacker roles, so they are either using a Cover 1 (man) or Cover 3 (zone) shell. Before the snap, Gallman motions from the weak side of the offense (offensive left) to the strong side (offensive right) in an effort to get the Eagles to betray their coverage. While there is some slight shifting of the linebackers, nobody moves to follow Gallman across the formation, hinting to Manning that this is probably a zone coverage.

The pass from Manning to Gallman is routine, and the back presents a nice target and secures the ball before turning up-field.

As the offense’s most reliable weapon, the defense rightly respects Sterling Shepard in a 2nd and 15 situation. Manning and Shepard take advantage of this and work together to set Gallman up for the 11 yard gain. Shepard presses up the field from his position in the slot before setting up for his block while Manning affects free safety and one of the dime defenders by looking down the field.

The combination draws a pair of defenders out of position, giving the blockers time to set up an alley for Gallman. Shepard’s block in particular effectively occupies three defenders, wrecking pursuit angles when combined with Gallman’s surprising burst upfield.

Gallman can’t quite escape the tackle that ultimately brings him down, but he has enough momentum to almost pick up the first down.

Pass protection

The final, and possibly most important, duty of any running back is pass protection. The big question for any rookie running back isn’t how well they run or catch the ball, but can they be trusted to pick up a blitzer and keep the quarterback upright.

That was the big question coming out for Gallman, and is the big question now for Barkley.

Once again the Giants are in their 11-personnel group, in the shotgun set. The Eagles, by contrast, are lined up in a 3-4 front, with nickel personnel.

The Giants slide their protection to the offensive right, where Tavarres King is the lone receiver to that side of the field, matched up on the corner with the free safety shaded to that side of the field. The Eagles appear to be running a hybrid coverage, with man coverage on the strong side of the offensive formation and zone coverage on the weak side.

This is a one-read play, where either King gets the ball or Manning throws it away. The Giants’ slide protection moves the offensive line over to establish a firm pocket in front of while Gallman comes from the right to the left to pick up Malcolm Jenkins rushing from the linebacker position. While matching the rookie Gallman up on a linebacker might be a chancy proposition, it is actually a shrewd call in under the circumstances. Jenkins is a talented safety, but listed at 204 pounds, Gallman has the size advantage. He does a nice job of setting a wide base, lowering his pads, and delivering a jolt. It isn’t a punishing block by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done, and gives Manning plenty of time to get the pass off.

One final note, the Giants use a token play-fake here, with Gallman acting as though he might have received a hand-off. That small gesture is enough to freeze the Eagle’s linebackers and free safety, while King’s sluggo (slant-go) route spun the corner around. The two together made for wide-open receiver and an easy touchdown.

Final thoughts

So, what will be Gallman’s role in the new offense? It is too early to say for sure. However, based on what he showed in his rookie season is encouraging heading in to his sophomore season. Saquon Barkley will be the Giants’ lead back and has the well-rounded game to never have to come off the field. Gallman can’t match Barkley’s explosive playmaking ability, but he looks to be a balanced and dependable option as well.

Ideally, Gallman would prove to be a steady “1-B” option for the Giants, who can step in and share the load with Barkley. Not only would his direct and physical “banging” running present a stylistic change-up for defenses, but it would also serve to keep Barkley away from the dreaded 370-touch barrier.

(Note: Only a handful of running backs in NFL history have surpassed 370 combined carries and receptions in a single year and not suffered a precipitous drop-off in production in subsequent years.)

Gallman was nicknamed the “Wayne Traine” at Clemson because he was the engine which kept their National Championship offense on schedule. The Giants likely won’t be relying on him for that, but depth is a major question throughout their roster. The more under-the-radar players the Giants can have step up and be contributors, the better.