Ask Saquon Barkley if the Giants are a playoff team this year, and he will respond like he was asked if he has the biggest quads in the huddle.
“Come on, man. That’s obvious,” he said. “I know why people may not think [so], but yes.”
Such is the mindset of one of the most upbeat voices in the Giants’ locker room, the second-year running back who plans on doing whatever he can to get them back to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
In the midst of an offseason in which the Giants, coming off a 5-11 season, traded away Odell Beckham Jr., let Landon Collins walk in free agency and drafted a quarterback of the future in Daniel Jones — who will likely sit behind Eli Manning for most, if not all, of his rookie year — Barkley said he believes his team is still capable of playing past December.
“I’m going to confidently say yes until we’re not,” Barkley said Saturday after hosting a Citi ProCamp for 400-plus kids at West Essex High School in New Jersey. “To the day we are eliminated from the playoffs and out of playoff contention, I’m still going to say we are going to be a playoff team. My opinion is yes. I know we lost a lot of great talent and obviously Odell. Odell is a very great friend of mine, I’m going to miss him.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the team. I think about the Patriots. Obviously Tom Brady gets all the praise and Tom Brady is a great player. But there’s not that many guys around him — I’m not saying they’re not great players, but they aren’t all superstars. They’re people that come out, they work, they do all the things right, they win situational football and they win games. If we can continue to do what we did last year — especially what we did in the second half [going 4-4], win situational football and come back together as a team — I don’t see why not, why the sky [isn’t] the limit.”
It is a lofty goal for a team that has won just eight games since last making the playoffs in 2016. Barkley, though, isn’t allowing himself to think otherwise.
Coming off his Offensive Rookie of the Year season in which he rushed 261 times for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns and added 91 receptions for 721 yards and four touchdowns, Barkley has his sights set on an encore by having his play translate to wins.
“I raise the bar by elevating others around me, whether that’s taking more of the role of being the player everyone’s focusing on and the opportunity goes around me, or being a leader,” he said. “I don’t care for stats. I had 2,000 [all-purpose] yards, you could argue one of the best rookie seasons ever, but we went 5-11. I’d much rather have 1,000 yards, 1,200 yards, 800 yards or whatever, not that many touchdowns and a 12-4 season. So my mindset, the way I grow is by helping the team win and whatever that means.”
In the meantime, Barkley is trying to help Jones improve every day and block out all the noise as he enters his rookie season after drawing the ire of Giants fans as the No. 6 pick. Jones “went crazy” and “had himself a day” in Friday’s OTA practice, according to Barkley.
“Right now, [people are saying], ‘You’re an awful pick,’ ” Barkley said. “But when he wins two Super Bowls, everybody’s going to say, ‘Oh, he’s the greatest pick of all time.’ That’s just how life works.”