It has finally come full circle for rookie running back Saquon Barkley. Finishing with 142 rushing yards on 27 carries, Barkley was leaned on heavily in Sunday’s 38-35 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An explosive outing like this isn’t out of the ordinary for Barkley. However, this time he proved his ability to be the between the tackles back the Giants need on Sunday
In the first half of the year, we witnessed Barkley elect to bounce runs outside for losses when he was given a hole for a 3- to 4-yard gain. This frustrated everyone, including Barkley. Sunday, Barkley chose to put his head down and trust the lanes that were given to him.
“Saquon is very coachable and that’s huge for a guy with his talent,” said head coach Pat Shurmur, “He had a couple he bounced today with good success, we don’t want to take that out of your game but on a few occasions here, just do this and trust us, and he did it and did a great job with it.”
A new mindset when running the ball was needed today for Barkley to take that next step in his progression. He made it very apparent during the game his priority was fighting his way through tacklers, rather than running around them.
“You can get that chance to pop a big one, but you have to continue,” said Barkley, “You have to take a physical run sometimes, and when you get the chance, you have to take it.”
Barkley’s strongest attribute has always been his ability to score from anywhere on the field. Turning any play into a long touchdown, Barkley has leaned on those big plays for most of his production. Against the Buccaneers he was able to rack up huge numbers despite not ripping off a 30-plus yard gain. A majority of his output came from the dirty short yards up the middle.
“Early in the game we called runs where, I think I mentioned during the week those dirty 5-yard runs where it’s grimy and tough and just hit it up in there, and he embraced that part of it,” said Shurmur, “I think by doing that early in the game, it really helped him.”
Shurmur wasn’t the only one to notice Barkley’s growth. Veteran quarterback Eli Manning noticed Barkley’s hard work paying off.
“I think he has gotten better every week ... I thought today was the best he ran,” said Manning, “He had a better tempo. He was hitting the holes fast and was running hard. He was close to breaking a couple of long ones but he was just efficient.”
Barkley was able to see the field and the pieces around him differently. According to him, he also felt an improvement in his tempo as well.
“I just got a feel for the running game and the offensive line, and I think I found a pace that I liked,” said Barkley.
For Barkley, he needs to continue to establish this hard nosed style of play as a reoccurring theme. Building on what led to today’s success will be the key to the Giants continuing their run over the final six games.