New York Giants: Who’s to blame for Saquon Barkley’s struggles?

Alexander Wilson
New York Giants, Saquon Barkley
Nov 24, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is tackled in the second half by Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Giants drafted Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the 2018 draft, they saw a player with elite elusiveness and ungodly speed at the running back position.

His ability to make big-time plays out of nothing and use his strength to break tackles in the open field makes him one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL. However, some of the red flags that scouts noticed before entering the NFL have come to life in his second season.

The consistent zero or negative yard gains make him a liability at times in the running game. He tries too hard to bounce the ball outside and can’t run up the gut and follow his blockers. When he is healthy, however, Barkley is one of the best in the game, but after a high ankle sprain in week three against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his skill set has quickly diminished to a mere fraction of what we know he is capable of.

Against the Chicago Bears in week 12, Barkley picked up 59 yards on 17 carries. He hasn’t topped 72 rushing yards in five games since returning from a three-game hiatus after the high ankle sprain. Head coach Pat Shurmur has tried to get him more involved, but a costly drop on a third-down wheel route against the Bears could’ve picked up a good chunk of yardage, symbolizing his struggles this season.

Who is to blame for Saquon Barkley’s struggles this year for the New York Giants?

While Barkley has undoubtedly played a part in his lack of production, the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors either. Left tackle Nate Solder has been one of the worst in the game, allowing nine overall sacks, which ranks first in the league for offensive tackles. Mike Remmers, at right tackle, has allowed three total sacks with a 61.2 overall grade, according to PFF. He has also been a liability on the offensive front, along with center Jon Halapio, who was replaced by Spencer Pulley after suffering a hamstring injury before the BYE week.

The challenge for Barkley ultimately comes down to health. It is clear that his ankle is still bothering him and restricting him from planting his right foot entirely. His usual jump cuts and tree trunk-like legs have not been the same in his sophomore season.

Although, the first two weeks of the season before his injury were far more productive. In week one against the Dallas Cowboys, he ran for 120 yards on 11 attempts and caught four receptions for 19 yards. In week two against the Buffalo Bills, he managed 107 yards on 18 carries and 28 yards on three receptions. He also found his way into the end zone for a score. The production is certainly there when you look at his numbers pre-injury, which only tells us he’s still being bothered by the ankle.