New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is entering his fifth season in the NFL. This is a make-or-break contract year for Barkley, the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Barkley was considered to be a generational talent when he was drafted but has yet to meet those expectations. Injuries and poor coaching have held Saquon back throughout his career. But with a new coaching staff in place and an improved offensive line in front of Saquon Barkley, there is reason to believe he is in line for a bounce-back season.
The Giants want to get Saquon Barkley to return to form. That form was his 2018 rookie campaign. Saquon Barkley won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 as he led the NFL with 2,028 total yards from scrimmage. It was a historic rookie season from the Giants’ running back, but it was also a world-class performance that Barkley has yet to replicate. The key reasons Saquon was so successful as a rookie: he was healthy and he was involved in the passing game. If the New York Giants want Saquon to have a bounce-back 2022 season, the key is to utilize him more as a receiver.
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Utilizing Saquon Barkley as a receiver
Saquon Barkley is one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive weapons when healthy. The reason why is his versatile and unlimited skillset. Barkley is not just an ankle-breaker rusher. He is also an impressive route-runner with reliable hands and the ability to lineup anywhere on the offense. Saquon was featured heavily in the Giants’ passing attack during his first season, receiving 121 targets that year (7.56 targets per game). The Giants have not targeted Saquon Barkley that much in the receiving game since then, seeing his targets per game dwindle to 5.62 in 2019 and all the way down to 3.15 in 2021.
Saquon Barkley’s involvement in the passing game has effectively been cut in half since his rookie season. To unlock the potential flashed in 2018, the Giants need to utilize Saquon Barkley more as a receiver. According to reports from minicamp, this is something that head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka are working to achieve.
According to Ralph Vacchiano, the Giants “want to use Saquon Barkley as an offensive weapon all over the field.” This means lining him up more in the slot and as a wide receiver. According to Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com, Saquon Barkley was “lining up as a receiver — both in the slot and outside — frequently throughout drills.” The Giants also had Barkley move a lot pre-snap on motion.
Saquon led the NFL with 2,028 total yards from scrimmage including 721 receiving yards. In those 16 games in 2018, Barkley totaled 721 receiving yards compared to 761 yards in 28 games from 2019-2021. The New York Giants are preparing to utilize Saquon Barkley more as a receiver in 2022 and this could lead to a huge bounce-back season.