The one position not plaguing the New York Giants is at running back.
Saquon Barkley, the 2018 NFL Draft’s best player regardless of position, did not disappoint. He led the NFL in scrimmage yards with 2.028 and joins Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (2,212 scrimmage yards in 1983) and Edgerrin James (2.139 scrimmage yards in 1999) as the only rookies in NFL history with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards.
Barkley ran for 1,307 yards (second to only the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott’s 1,434) and 11 touchdowns (fifth in the NFL). He also led the Giants with 91 receptions (the most by a rookie running back in NFL history) for 721 yards (third on the team) and four touchdowns. Barkley capped off his season with his first Pro Bowl selection and the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Barkley is the undisputed most important player on the Giants offense. In Year 2, he will garner even more attention now that Odell Beckham Jr. is a Cleveland Brown. He will be counted on to use his versatility as a receiver even more. If the Giants erase the stain of last season by winning in ’19, Barkley could be in the running for Most Valuable Player honors. There’s also the potential of breaking the single-season scrimmage yards record set by Chris Johnson in 2009 (2,509).
In spite of Barkley’s breakout rookie season, the Giants do have other talent at the position.
Wayne Gallman, entering his third season, was the team’s backup in 2018. Had the Giants not drafted Barkley, he could have easily been installed as the starter. Gallman has been a solid contributor during his Giants tenure and will be the No. 2 running back going into training camp. Rod Smith arrived via free agency from the Cowboys, where he was Elliott’s backup. He is obviously used to playing behind a dominant running back. Smith struggled in ’18, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry for just 232 yards in 55 attempts. Nonetheless, he will be Gallman’s chief competition for the backup spot.
Paul Perkins is looking to bounce back after being waived for a non-football injury and missing the entire season. He looked good throughout the spring and is very confident going into training camp. Elijhaa Penny appeared in the final 14 games of the season after being signed off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. If the Giants elect to have a fullback on the final 53-man roster, Penny will be at the top of their list. Undrafted free agent Jon Hiilliman is a possible practice-squad candidate.
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The Giants have few questions at the running back position entering 2019. Success at the position depends, in part, on the effectiveness of the revamped offensive line. Barkley lived up to the hype during his rookie year. He will be even better in Year 2. The offense needs a successful ground game to take pressure off the quarterback and receivers. Like Barkley, the Giants’ other running backs have the versatility to become receivers out of the backfield. The Giants’ running backs will play a huge role in determining whether or not the 2019 season will be labeled as triumphant or as a disappointment.