Adding one player usually doesn’t make all the difference in the world, but for the New York Giants, running back Saquon Barkley does just that. The Penn State phenom brings a sense of professionalism and premium talent to a Giants team that has lacked a true work-horse running back since Tiki Barber.
In 2017, Big Blue finished the season with 96.8 rushing yards per-game, good for 26th in the league. That sees them into the bottom 10 teams in terms of rushing production, but that number is about to change drastically.
While a running back makes all the difference on any given offense, the primary factor in a successful running game is the offensive line. The Giants added left tackle Nate Solder, guard Patrick Omameh, and drafted aggressive lineman Will Hernandez in the second-round of the NFL draft. While it’s too early to tell if the line will provide an upgrade over the 2017 group, it’s expected to be the case. Adding a serviceable left tackle in replacement of Ereck Flowers is significant, and knowing Eli Manning will sleep better at night is a positive for every Giants fan.
How much better will the running game be in 2018?
Even if the offensive line proves to be average next season, we can make the educated guess that the running game for the Giants will jump at least 10 spots – that would land them at 16th instead of 26th.
Let’s put this into perspective – If the Patriots can finish the season with the 10th best running game with 1,889 rushing yards, the Giants can surely surpass that ranking. The Patriots’ top running backs were Mike Gillislee, James White, and Dion Lewis. Saquon Barkley is better than all of those options and has all of their skills combined and more. The Patriot’s offensive line developed as the year progressed and ended up being solid by the end of the regular season. This was primarily due to Solder’s form, and guess what, he’s a New York Giant now.
Solder gave up three sacks in the first three games of the season, but after his slow start, he only gave up one in the following 16 games (including playoffs). He has the ability to be a top-tier left tackle. The Giants allocating $15 million per-season is only proof of that statement. In addition to his quality, Solder only missed games due to injury in 2015, proving that his durability is a strength – something the Giants are craving after years of injury struggles.
While it’s impossible to prove a massive jump in rankings, we can assume there will be an improvement, possibly a big one.