The New York Giants failed to come to terms on an agreement with RB Saquon Barkley on Monday, leaving the superstar’s future with the team shrouded in mystery. Barkley will consider holding out into the regular season, potentially leaving New York without one of its best playmakers.
Thankfully, the Giants have an insurance plan in place after drafting a promising running back prospect in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Eric Gray will now see a larger role in training camp and preseason, which will help him develop at a quicker rate and be more prepared for his rookie season.
Saquon Barkley likely to holdout during training camp
Barkley is unlikely to attend training camp this summer. Because he has yet to sign his franchise tender, Barkley is technically not under contract with the Giants; therefore, the team cannot fine him for missing practices.
The expectation is that Barkley will hold out this summer and skip the majority – if not all – of training camp. Barkley’s absence will present Gray with an opportunity to play a bigger role in training camp.
Eric Gray playing a bigger role at Giants’ training camp
Instead of playing with the backups, Gray will now likely see plenty of playing time with the first team at training camp. With Barkley absent, Gray will now take far more handoffs from Daniel Jones, rather than Tyrod Taylor, and be more involved with the starters’ gameplan.
Gray will get far more meaningful practice at training camp than originally expected. Inversely, Barkley will be missing out on valuable training with his teammates. While the offense is entering its second season in HC Brian Daboll and OC Mike Kafka’s system, the coaches are expected to make changes to the scheme and implement new concepts. Barkley will not be there to learn those new concepts, but Gray will.
Giants rookie Eric Gray will be more prepared to start in Week 1 than Saquon Barkley
Barkley will be inevitably behind if he holds out for the entirety of training camp. He will miss out on valuable practice time and not be present to learn any changes New York makes to its scheme. Meanwhile, Gray will be fully involved in the implementation of new concepts and fully prepared to start by Week 1. This gives Gray a huge edge going into the regular season.
Eric Gray: A three-down rusher with the ability to create big plays
Prior to the NFL Draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described Gray as a “decisive, creative runner with the size and skill set for three-down consideration on the pro level.” Zierlein compared Gray to RB Miles Sanders who recently signed a lucrative deal with the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gray had 44 carries of 10+ yards last season, ranking first among Big 12 running backs. While he may not be quite the home-run-hitter that Barkley is, Gray’s ability to create big plays will be valuable.
Gray is an impressive runner that also contributes well in the receiving game and as a pass protector. His increased role in training camp will combine with his well-rounded skillset and make Gray fully prepared to play a large role early in his rookie season.