The drafting of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley marked the end of the sub-par running game era for Big Blue. Bringing on a back than can run downhill and bounce the ball outside when under pressure provides the offense with a glorified ‘escape route’.
In past years, the Giants have struggled to convert on third downs and extent drives, often leaving the defense to pick up the slack – which contributed to the fatigue of the defense and the massive amount of injuries. Drafting Barkley aids in the solving of that issue, which certainly played a part in the decision to draft the star running back.
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New head coach for the Giants, Pat Shurmur, will boast a deadly option on all downs – his expectations for the rookie running back have only been exceeded by his obvious potential and leadership abilities.
“He hasn’t disappointed us one bit. We have high expectations for all of our rookies, especially Saquon,” Shurmur said during OTAs. “He has been out there running the ball well and is catching it well. He did a nice job today in pass protection. He is doing all the things now that we need to see him do to trust him out on the field next fall. He has done a good job.”
Having a back that can run, catch, and block is essential to the overall success of the offense, and it’s something the Giants have missed since the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
With Barkley taking on a large role on the offense, the running game is almost ensured to see an improvement – they ranked 26th in the NFL in 2017, managing only 96.8 yards per game on the ground.
“You need to run the football for your offense, obviously, but also for your team. We practice runs as much as we practice passing the ball,” Shurmur said.
“You just can’t do it in the physical setting that you do when you have pads on. You practice it because it is part of your DNA. Whatever you plan to do on Sundays in the fall, you have to practice. We practice running the football and how we are going to run the ball. We practice it all the time.”
The Giants signed former Carolina Panthers back Jonathan Stewart to a two-year, $7.125 deal over the offseason. Signing the veteran back certainly rose a few questions, as Stewart has seen a decrease in yards per carry over the past few years. It’s possible general manager Dave Gettleman thought to sign Stewart as a potential culture change factor, but his ability to put his head down and grind out a few extra yards when Barkley needs a rest might be worth the money… Or some of it at least.