There’s no doubt the Giants are now his team
The New York Giants are Saquon Barkley’s team now. In the bygone Super Bowl days, they were Eli Manning’s team. For a brief period, they were Odell Beckham’s team. Someday, hopefully, they will be Daniel Jones’ team.
Now, they are Barkley’s.
Let’s talk a little about Barkley and expectations for 2019 as we continue profiling the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp later this year.
Position: Running back
2018 season in review
Giants GM Dave Gettleman says of Barkley that “he’s unique and he’s special.”
His rookie season made it pretty hard to argue with Gettleman’s assessment.
Among his many accomplishments:
- AP Offensive Rookie of the Year
- First-Team Sporting News and Pro Football Focus All-Pro (not the official All-Pro honors)
- Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year
- FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year
Giants’ rookie records for:
- Rushing yards (1,307)
- 100-yard rushing games (7)
- Rushing touchdowns (11)
- Yards from scrimmage (2,028)
- Receiving yards by a running back (721)
- Receptions by a running back (91) … also an NFL record
- Tied Odell Beckham for most receptions by a rookie at any position
- Total touchdowns (15)
- Barkley had five touchdowns from scrimmage of 50 or more yards, the most ever by a Giants rookie and the most by any Giants player since Beckham had five in 2015. Barkley was the first NFL rookie with five 50+ yard touchdowns from scrimmage since Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss in 1998.
- Second in the NFL in rushing yards
- Was the third rookie in NFL history with 2,000 or more yards from scrimmage, joining Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk
- Second among all running back in receptions
- Set Giants’ single-game record for receptions with 14 vs. Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 16
- First NFL rookie with at least 1,200 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards since Detroit’s Billy Sims in 1980.
- Barkley exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in 13 games, tying Dickerson’s NFL rookie record.
Not bad. Only, though, a partial list. Barkley’s accomplishments take up roughly four full pages in the Giants’ 2018 review book sent to media.
In all, Barkley accounted for 33.5 percent of the Giants’ total yardage on offense.
Just about the only thing Barkley didn’t do was outrun the ever-present questions about whether or not the Giants should have used the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback rather than on him. He was still being asked that question when he met the media for the first time this year at the beginning of the team’s offseason program.
“Not being cocky or anything, but if a Rookie of the Year doesn’t sway that mindset, then I don’t know what will. My mindset is to continue to prove to the people in this locker room and in this building that they got the right guy,” Barkley said. “Not only the right guy because I can break off an 80-yard touchdown, because there are a lot of people in the league that can do that, but as a guy that can buy in and take that leadership role, I believe that I have been able to show that so far.”
What can Barkley do for an encore?
His skills aren’t going to change. He might even be better right from the start at making sure he gets north and south to get what head coach Pat Shurmur last year called the “dirty yards.” With a full season together, Barkley, Shurmur and Eli Manning might even be better at figuring out ways to use Barkley’s talents to attack in the passing game rather than using him so often as a last resort or check down option.
What is going to be really interesting is how the Giants’ offense evolves without Odell Beckham Jr. and with Barkley as its obvious key component.
We saw four Beckham-less games at the end of last season, and they were a mixed bag for both Barkley and the offense as a whole.
There was a 40-point explosion against the Washington Redskins in which Barkley romped for 170 yards on just 14 carries, and a 17-carry, 109-yard game to end the season against the Dallas Cowboys in which the Giants scored 35 points in a losing effort.
The other two games, though, weren’t so good. Barkley averaged season lows of 2.21 and 2.05 yards per carry in losses to Tennessee and Indianapolis, one of which was a 17-0 shutout by the Titans.
Can the Giants, with Golden Tate replacing Beckham and Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers added to the offensive line, distribute the ball well enough to keep defenses from simply loading up to stop Barkley?
We already mentioned that Barkley accounted for 33.5 percent of the Giants’ 2018 yardage. Including incomplete passes, the Giants tried to put the ball in Barkley’s hands on 382 of 967 plays last season, 39.5 percent.
Can Barkley do more? Should the Giants ask him to do more? Would they be better off balancing things out and asking him to do less?
Really, the answer is whatever it takes to win more than five games.
“Obviously, my competitive nature would love to be the best player in the league and the best running back in the league, but I think you could make an argument that I was one of the best running backs in the league last year and we went 5-11 to account for it,” Barkley said at the outset of the offseason program. “My mindset is whatever it takes to take this team to another level and compete for a championship, whether that is 2,000 yards, 1,500 yards or 800 yards.”