Starting off a career with 2,000 all-purpose yards and offensive rookie of the year accolades is impressive, a statistical production that most veterans are seeking, yet New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley earned it in one season.
Elevating his level of play spells trouble for any defense in his path, and that’s exactly what we should be expecting in the year ahead, but why?
The sophomore slump is certainly a thing, but Barkley has the ability to skip right over the dreaded season and enjoy another successful year. The reason he will — the improvement of the offensive line.
The New York Giants invested heavily in rebuilding the O-line:
A line consisting of Nate Solder in a new system and injured, rookie Will Hernandez, backup Spencer Pulley, a joke in Patrick Omameh, and a turnstile in Ereck Flowers isn’t something to write home about. In fact, it’s more of an embarrassment, or rather the start of a transition to a line worth talking about.
Now, it is built on a solid duo on the left side including Solder and Hernandez, a capable Jon Halapio returning from injury, a top-5 guard in Kevin Zeitler, and a much improved right tackle in Mike Remmers over Flowers and Chad Wheeler.
This line will open up holes big enough for Barkley to swim through, something he surely didn’t experience in 2018. However, Barkley led all 47 running backs with 100-carries in breakaway percentage at 54%, according to PFF. His production was reliant on his ability to break into the secondary and pick up big chunks of yardage, and that’s not a bad thing. Making up for two short runs with a long touchdown carry is acceptable at the professional level.
He gained 54% of his total 1,307 rushing yards on 20 carries he took for 15-plus yards in his rookie year. Adding better offensive lineman will only increase that statistic and allow him to work with more space on the line of scrimmage. I imagine two-yard runs will become four and his breakout potential will remain the same.
The offensive line is the catalyst for a dynamite 2019 for Barkley, and we will be able to witness his greatness.