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The 5 O’Clock Club: Why is Peyton Barber still getting carries?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Here’s a list of Peyton Barber’s 8 carries against the Bengals:

1st & Goal at CIN 10
(2:48 - 1st) P.Barber up the middle to CIN 4 for 6 yards (V.Bell).

1st & 10 at WSH 37
(7:03 - 3rd) P.Barber left guard to WAS 39 for 2 yards (C.Covington).

1st & 10 at CIN 15
(5:40 - 3rd) P.Barber left tackle to CIN 14 for 1 yard (C.Lawson).

1st & 10 at WSH 3
(2:08 - 3rd) W.Martin reported in as eligible. P.Barber left guard to WAS 5 for 2 yards (V.Bell; M.Daniels).

2nd & 4 at WSH 23
(0:00 - 3rd) (Shotgun) P.Barber up the middle to WAS 25 for 2 yards (C.Lawson).

2nd & 20 at CIN 29
(3:07 - 4th) P.Barber right tackle to CIN 28 for 1 yard (L.Sims; J.Bynes).

3rd & 14 at CIN 23
(2:22 - 4th) P.Barber right guard to CIN 20 for 3 yards (G.Pratt).

1st & 10 at CIN 46
(1:50 - 4th) P.Barber up the middle to CIN 35 for 11 yards (J.Bates III).

Of the eight runs listed, I would only count 3 of them as “successful” — the first run of the day, and the last two.

Six yards on 1st & goal from the ten-yard line is a good job. Gibson ran on 2nd & 3rd down, scoring a touchdown on the drive.

The next four carries were largely futile efforts, each gaining only a yard or two. I guess the point was to give Gibson a rest. He finished the game with 17 touches. I’m not sure that he needed the rest. The other possibility — at least for Barber’s carry on 1st & 10 from the Washington 3 yard line — is that the coaches trust him to protect the ball while fighting for a few yards. A fumble on that play would have been a disaster.

Likewise, the two carries late in the 4th quarter on 2nd & 20 and 3rd & 14 both came with the team in putative field goal range. It seems that the coaches may have called Barber’s number because they were being conservative; all they needed was to go straight ahead and not for the field goal in a game that was already under control. If that was the strategy, it didn’t succeed entirely. Barber did his part, but following the latter carry, Dustin Hopkins missed his final field goal attempt of the game.

Even Barber’s final carry — the one that went for 11 yards to seal the win — seems to have been part of the same safe & conservative strategy. In other words, with 1:50 left on the clock, if Barber hadn’t gotten the first down on this carry, the coaches probably would have given him the ball two more times in an attempt to simply run out the clock on the Bengals.

You can see from the running back stats above that Gibson is getting the bulk of the work now, and is productive, with 5.9 ypc and 10 yards on one reception against Cincinnati. McKissic has proven to be an explosive back, not unlike Chris Thompson, though more of a runner than CT, averaging over 7 yards per carry and 8.7 yards per reception.

By contrast, Barber looks like a plodder at 3.5 yards per carry, and that’s pretty much what he is. Because Gibson wears 24 and Barber 34, on certain plays in the second half against the Bengals, when all I saw from the game camera is the number “4”, I started the play thinking that it was Antonio Gibson in the backfield. When the runner got the ball and hit the line, I was anticipating a broken tackle and yards after contact, and I was surprised when I saw him go down. Each time, as Barber came out of the pile, I sputtered in disgust that he was in the game instead of Gibson.

That’s what prompted me to write this article.

I originally planned this article with the idea that the headline was an appeal to the coaches — WHY is this guy still getting carries? — but after looking at his specific usage, I think the question has been answered in my mind. In part, Barber is used strategically to keep Gibson from wearing out... to keep his touches well below 25 per game. But more often, Barber is getting the ball when the coaches want to insure ball security and no negative yardage on the play; that is, near our own goal line, when they are in field goal range and 3 points will be acceptable, and when the offense is just trying to kill the clock. That’s Barber’s job. He’s here to protect the ball and, to a lesser extent, protect Gibson from overuse.

Bryce Love could be activated from IR soon, though I haven’t heard any recent updates. Initially, I thought his activation would spell the end of Peyton Barber’s role as an active gameday participant, but now I’m not so sure. It could be that Love will be inactive unless an injury to another RB opens an opportunity for him. I think the coaches trust Barber to protect the ball in key situations, and I think that’s why he continues to get a few carries every game.


When Bryce Love is healthy, should he be active on game days?

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