EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wan'Dale Robinson is a willing blocker, but at 5-8 and 175 pounds, the Giants' second-year wide receiver is not always effective or successful when asked to clear a path for one of his teammates.
That was on display last month, when the Giants played the Jets and Tyrod Taylor threw a short pass to Matt Breida. Quincy Williams, the Jets' 5-11, 240-pound linebacker, steamrolled Robinson like a pickup truck running over an orange traffic cone.
"It felt like what you would expect a 240-pound linebacker hitting a 175-pound receiver would feel like," Robinson said today. "He got me. We ran a screen play that was to our running back and he (Williams) was the one that was running out and I was like, 'Well, this is the guy I have to block.
"I went to the ground, and I got back up to do what I could do, and my coach (Mike Groh) was like, 'Hey, you did all you could do in that position. We can't ask you to do too much more with that.'"
Robinson was in a situation yesterday against the Washington Commanders that was similar in that he was blocking for a running back, but different because his assignment was a fairer fight. With the Giants holding a two-point lead, Robinson was one of several blockers who helped spring Saquon Barkley for a game-long 36-yard run on the final play of the third quarter. Four plays later, Barkley caught a five-yard touchdown pass. From that point on, the Giants' lead never dipped under five points and they defeated the Commanders, 31-19.
The play was significant for several reasons. Had the Giants not scored on that drive, Washington could have taken the lead with a field goal. To that point, Barkley had rushed six times for minus-2 yards. That play provided the impetus for Barkley to finish with a game-high 83 yards on 14 carries. And the teamwork involved in springing Barkley was heartening to coach Brian Daboll.
"It was really five (blockers)," Daboll said today. "The play got started because of (tight end Daniel) Bellinger and (wide receiver Sterling) Shep(ard). They had a pressure that went inside, but they sealed the edge and prevented the penetration off the pressure. Then, Wan'Dale really did a great job of blocking the edge guy. Then we got two linemen out in front, which was a clean look for Saquon. And then once Saquon got out into the open field, he didn't get touched for a little bit, then he made elusive plays, made a guy miss and ran with power and strength. It was a timely play call by Mike (Kafka, the offensive coordinator), we hit it into a good look. The guys did a good job of getting the play started and then Saquon in space, it's always a good thing when he's in space."
The Giants took possession on their own 35-yard line after the team's fourth takeaway of the game, a Micah McFadden fumble recovery after Bobby Okereke forced Chris Rodriguez to cough up the ball. On first down, quarterback Tommy DeVito took the snap from center, spun around, and pitched the ball to Barkley, who was running to his left.
That's when the blocking brigade took over. Bellinger (linebacker Andre Jones, Jr.) and Shepard (cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste) pushed their defenders toward the scrum at the line of scrimmage. Left guard Justin Pugh and center John Michael Schmitz impeded linebacker David Mayo and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, respectively. And Robinson pushed cornerback Kendall Fuller three yards back as Barkley ran past them.
"It was pretty exciting," Robinson said. "I knew whenever we had the play called that I would have a pretty big block on that play. So, got my chin strap ready to go and was ready to go and made the big block."
View photos from the Giants' Week 11 matchup against the Washington Commanders.
Is Robinson underestimated as a blocker?
"I'm sure by a lot of people I am," he said. "I like to say that I'm strong, especially for my size, so probably brings people a little surprise whenever I go out there."
Barkley finished the play by eluding a tackle attempt by safety Percy Butler and pushing Kamren Curl for eight yards while the safety tried to bring him down.
Although he's unaccustomed to having negative yardage as the fourth quarter nears, Barkley said he was not concerned about his paltry output before the long run.
"I think over my career, I've wanted to continue to be patient and continue and trust it," he said. "I feel like a lot of teams game plan is going to (try) to stop the run. We definitely felt that from the beginning, kind of similar to last week (in Dallas). We didn't get the run game going, but the second half we got it going and started to figure it out. That's credit to the offensive line. That's credit to the wide receivers and tight ends blocking, all credit to the coaches coming up with a game plan that we could attack them. But this time we were able to continue to stick with the run and make some plays."
Daboll demurred when asked if a play like that can demoralize a defense.
"It was a good play," Daboll said. "I'd say you just get ready to play the next play. They did a heck of a job of stopping our running game, so I don't want to speak for them, but they were doing a dang good job of stopping our running game and controlling the line of scrimmage, so it was good to get that one. Obviously, gave us a little bit of a spark."
And it was due in a part to a block by the Giants' shortest and lightest wide receiver. Robinson, who seldom blocked in college at Nebraska and Kentucky, believes his size can be an advantage when he's asked to perform that task.
"I can get under them and get under their pads," he said. "Really, once I can kind of get a grab, I'm pretty set.
"Everything that I do on the football field, I always try to be the best at it. So, anytime they asked me to block, I knew I had to work on it. Sometimes, it's all about your leverage, and luckily for me, I'm a little bit lower than some guys. I'm also pretty strong, so it helps out."
It certainly did yesterday.
*Daboll did not have an update on wide receiver Darius Slayton, who left the game with an arm injury.
*Randy Bullock has been elevated from the practice squad for each of the last three games, the maximum allowed, so if he continues as the Giants' kicker, the team must add him to the active roster.
"I'll meet with (general manager) Joe Schoen - me, Joe, the doctors and the rest of the crew and come up with a plan as to how we're going to go forward here," Daboll said.