New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley has been nothing short of remarkable through the first 10 games of his NFL career, but that’s not to say he is perfect.
Like most players and all rookies, there are areas of Barkley’s game that have needed work. Chief among them was his propensity to bounce plays outside rather than taking a few yards up the middle.
In college, that worked for Barkley. He was able to turn the corner and beat less-refined defenders and slower players. In the NFL, that’s rarely been the case.
Accordingly, Barkley spent the team’s bye week looking to refine his game. He played well against the San Francisco 49ers, but then displayed an entirely new side of his game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
“Saquon is very coachable and that’s huge for a guy with his talent,” head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters on Sunday. “He had a couple he bounced today with good success, we don’t want to take that out of your game but on a few occasions here, just do this and trust us, and he did it and did a great job with it.
“Early in the game we called runs where, I think I mentioned during the week those dirty 5-yard runs where it’s grimy and tough and just hit it up in there, and he embraced that part of it. “I think by doing that early in the game, it really helped him.”
Barkley benefitted by the change in approach, rushing for a career-best 142 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. And while he did have a long run of 23 yards, many were of the dirty variety.
“The more carries you get, the better you see the field and the way that the defense plays. You can get that chance to pop a big one, but you have to continue. You have to take a physical run sometimes, and when you get the chance, you have to take it,” Barkley said.
“I will never be satisfied, but other than that, I definitely feel like I’m getting better throughout the year. Plays are becoming clearer to me; I’m seeing the field a lot better. I’m seeing the game better with the help of Eli and all the vets on the team. But I still have way, way more to improve on.”
Part of the credit also needs to go to the offensive line, which has played substantially better in recent weeks, but it’s more a testament to Barkley’s willingness to adapt and be coached. It speaks volumes about him as both a player and a leader, and proves he’s just scratching the surface of his ability.