In 103 days, the New York Giants will open the 2019 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The offense will look different without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was dealt to the Cleveland Browns in March. In spite of Beckham’s loss, running back Saquon Barkley feels the Giants offense will jell without No. 13.
“Yes, I think we show signs of it,” Barkley said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “Last year, we played at a high level, definitely in that second half. Now, no one is new to it. Aside from the rookies, for myself, (quarterback) Eli (Manning), Shep (wide receiver Sterling Shepard), and (tight end) Evan (Engram), all those guys, no one is new to it.
“We had a whole year of it last year and now we get a jumpstart. I feel like I am seeing the field a lot better and understanding the offense. I think we have a lot of talent and we showed flashes of it last year. When the opportunity comes, we are going to be ready.”
The Giants are entering their second season under head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula. In the first half of last season, the Giants averaged 18.7 points per game with a record of 1-7. The offense seemed to come alive in the second half of 2018. The Giants averaged 27.3 points per game with a record of 4-4. The Giants won two more games in ’18 than they did in ’17. In addition, eight of the Giants’ 11 losses were by seven points or fewer.
Barkley is optimistic the team will take the next step in ’19. After all, the Giants played their final four games of 2018 without Beckham. At the same time, he recognizes what Beckham brought to the table but stresses teams win games in the National Football League not individuals.
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“I would say just being familiar with the offense and having a whole year attached to it,” Barkley said. “Obviously, how can we be better without Odell? At the end of the day, it is a team game. It is going to take 11 men on offense to go out there and win games. There are going to be days where I am the guy that is having the day or Shep is going to have the day or (free agent signee Golden) Tate will have that day. We just have to find a way to get better every single day, grow with each other, improve with each other and when the opportunity comes, capitalize on it.”
Barkley, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, set NFL records for most yards from scrimmage by a rookie (2,028), most games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage by a rookie (12), and most receptions by a rookie running back (91). He also set franchise records for most rushing touchdowns by a rookie (11), most rushing yards by a rookie (1,307), and most touchdowns in a season by a rookie (15). Barkley also had five touchdowns of at least 50 yards, tying the mark set by Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss in 1998.
Barkley touched the ball 352 times last season and is willing to increase (or decrease) his workload as situations dictate.
“I don’t think any number is too high for me personally,” Barkley said. “At the end of the day, I know I sound like a broken record, but you will hear this for as long as I am in the NFL, as long as I take care of my body, my body will take care of me. I will continue to have my team around me. Obviously, we have a great strength staff here and a great training staff here. Have to be a pro outside the facility. Whether it is 350 touches, 400 touches, or less touches next year. Whatever I have to do to have this team compete for a championship, I am going to do.”