More than two weeks after tweaking his hamstring, Barkley is showing off the speed that made him the No. 2 overall pick in this past April’s NFL Draft. He also showed his elusiveness and ability to make defenders miss.
Barkley is ready for his NFL regular season debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at MetLife Stadium. This is in spite of taking a grand total of six snaps in the preseason. He will get a sizeable workload but will still share duties with second-year back Wayne Gallman and the veteran Jonathan Stewart.
“You’ve heard me say this in the past, it takes a village with the running backs,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “The running backs that are up are all going to get their touches, and regardless of Saquon, Wayne, Jonathan, whoever is up is going to get their touches.”
Barkley was drafted to be the feature back, getting somewhere around 25 carries a game. The Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook had 127 yards on 22 carries in last year’s regular season opener with Shurmur as offensive coordinator.
He is expected to do his most damage in the passing game. Barkley was lined up throughout the summer and consistently made mincemeat out of Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
“That’s what makes him special, the fact that he can be a receiver out of the backfield,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “It just makes him that three-down back, finding ways to get him the ball in space. That’s a matchup we like.
“If we get man-to-man, that’s a matchup we like in the mix. Getting him the ball and letting him be an athlete, get the ball to him in space where he can make guys miss and get some big gains for us. I think it will be helpful, if teams want to play zone and drop back, having the ability to throw checkdowns and let him make some plays that way.”
The Giants face one of the NFL’s most dominant defenses to open the season. Barkley could prove to be a life preserver for the Giants offense who is playing with a revamped offensive line for the first time. Manning threw an average of nine passes to his running backs in 2017. Gallman, Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins, and Shane Vereen do not have Barkley’s talent or athleticism.
Manning, who has never been what you’d call a mobile quarterback, is entering his 15th season. The right side of the offensive line is questionable at best. Barkley could become a favorite target out of the backfield, especially going against the Jaguars’ dominant defense.
Regardless of how he is used, the 21-year-old former Penn State Nittany Lion is expecting to be a big part of the offense.
“I see it as a do-it-all back,” Barkley said. “A guy that can line up out wide, in the slot, coming out of the backfield, running the ball inside and outside the tackles. Got a little bit of it all.”
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.