All eyes are on New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley this season. Not just Giants fans, but fans around the league in general are curious to see if Barkley will get back to his rookie season heights coming off a season taken away by injury. By all accounts, things have been going well so far with Barkley’s recovery. But until we see the player on the field, we can’t make a judgement for sure about how his season will go.
What exactly will define whether it’s a good or bad comeback for the Giants starter? According to Tiki Barber, much of it will come down to Barkley’s signature explosiveness and whether or not he can bounce back with the same form he showed early on.
“I think it’s mostly his change of direction you’ll be looking at, but it’s also how explosive he looks. One of the things I always remember about Saquon is when he puts his foot down and he’s ready to go he’s out the door. I think his explosion will be something to keep an eye on,” Barber told the New York Post.
Barber went on to say that Barkley probably won’t be as fast – but that this might not have the impact on his game that some are thinking. “I think it will slow him down and that will be a good thing. Will he be as fast? I don’t know, it’s a good question, and I don’t know if it matters, to be honest with you. Being a running back is not about straightaway speed like a wide receiver.”
According to Barber, Barkley will still be the kind of player that can run the full distance in the open field. Even if he’s not quite as fast.
Would Barkley slowing down his game be a good thing?
While Barkley has received widespread praise since coming into the league, one of the criticisms of his play is that he frequently looks for “home run” plays while passing up on chances to pick up a few yards less glamorously.
Barber’s prediction that Barkley will have to slow his game down could indeed be a good thing for solving this problem. After all, a player moving at a slower speed will have to think more about their actions and not rely as much on pure physicality.
That may be a good thing long term for Barkley’s career. At this point, he’s already been injured for two of his three seasons in the league, missing last season nearly entirely. His fearless play style helped make him popular in the first place, but many running backs in the past have shown that reckless running isn’t sustainable for a long career.
The Giants invested a lot in Barkley and will want him to perform for as long as possible. Given that context, it would make sense for the coaching staff to also welcome a change of pace for him come week one.
Until then, though, we won’t know for sure how aggressively Barkley will play in his return. There’s a lot riding on his performance, and if there’s one thing that Saquon Barkley is, it’s a staunch competitor. If he’s in a position to go full speed despite recovering from an injury, we may very well see him try it right from the start.