Facing off against the New York Giants usually meant Odell Beckham Jr. would receive 75% of the pass-attempts, the running game would be lackluster, and the offensive line would be swiss cheese. Well, those days are over, and the NFC East is about to see a major shakeup with the way the Giants approach every game and how they utilize their talent.
First-round draft choice, Saquon Barkley, presents a significant threat out of the backfield – even more-so than any runners on the Eagles or Redskins. The only back that presents more of a threat is Ezekiel Elliot, due to him having NFL experience. Barkley could easily surpass the likes of Elliot with a year in the NFL under his belt. In fact, he could be better right out of the gate, but let’s not assume anything until it’s proven true.
Barkley finished 2017 with 632 receiving yards, only 23 less than Pittsburgh Steelers’ LeVeon Bell, who had 655. While Barkley was still in college and was facing off against lesser talent, we can still look at the stats as a foreshadowing of what’s to come. Penn State lacked talent on the offensive side of the ball for the most part, and Barkley presented their most lethal target. Defenses knew that and game-planned for him. On the other hand, Bell had Antonio Brown to open up the secondary and keep the linebackers honest. He also has one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Ben Roethlisberger.
Comparing the two might be like apples and oranges, but their skill-sets are similar. They both acquire immense agility and the ability to exploit gaps in the defense. Bell has better vision on the interior while Barkley tends to bounce it outside for extra yardage. For the Giants, Barkley presents one of the most lethal running backs the league might ever witness, and we get to root for him week-in and week-out.
What he needs to work on:
As stated before, Barkley tends to bounce the ball outside when he feels pressure from the interior. Sometimes, it’s better to simply run it straight up the gut and grind out a yard or two instead of getting tackled for a loss in an attempt to get around the edge. It’s all about opportunity cost. If you make one decision, you could be gaining positive yardage from another. In 2016, 23.2% of Barkley’s runs went for zero or negative yardage. But there’s a caveat – Barkley predominantly ran out of the shotgun formation, effectively taking his momentum away and forcing him to choose a hole without any burst or speed, which caused him to use his lateral agility to bounce it to the exterior.
This problem will disappear with the Giants, as they run a lot of I-formation plays, so Eli Manning can work the play-action and have Barkley appear in the flat. It will be a different type of running for Barkley, but one that should benefit him on the field.
Why the NFC East should be scared:
The rest of the division should be worried about the Giants’ new back. He is an all-around play maker and can do anything that’s asked of him. They haven’t faced a back like this before, and never from the Giants… Jerry Reese made sure of that. Expect to see Barkley get a lot of usage early in the year, as they break him in like a pair of shiny new shoes.
During minicamp, Barkley was asked if he had dropped a pass since becoming a Giant, his response, according to Giants.com:
â€œI did. I dropped one,â€ the second overall selection conceded today after a minicamp workout. â€œThat is something that I pride myself on. You come out here every single day and you want to be perfect. When I mean perfect, I donâ€™t mean a perfect player, but you want to go through practice without drops. Sometimes it reassures you that you have to get back on the jugs and catching after practice. There is a ball that I caught 100 times and I dropped it, because I was trying to turn up field instead of securing the catch. I kind of worked on that after and it has not happened since. That is just a part of the game. I hate making mistakes, but I love making mistakes. I love having MAâ€™s (missed assignments) and drops. It reassures you and makes you get back on your grind, lock in and focus a little more. It is better to happen now and in practice than in week one against Jacksonville or preseason against the Browns.â€
The Giants have struggled in the past with dropped passes, but Barkley will take that statistic and shove it up your… You get the point.
The NFC East should be worried, because Barkley makes the right decision nearly every time, whether it’s before the play, running full speed at a defender, or breaking out into a route. He knows the game, and he knows how to deceive even the most gifted athletes. So be wary, Cowboy’s fans, because the Giants have a new weapon that has yet to be unleashed.