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How will the Giants use Saquon Barkley?

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In as many ways as they can

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington
Saquon Barkley
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Saquon Barkley is the shiny new play-making toy for New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur to unwrap. So, how will Shurmur and the Giants use him?

The short answer: every way they possibly can.

I liked Chris’s response when I mentioned this post to him.

“Scoring touchdowns.”

Here is what GM Dave Gettleman said about Barkley’s potential impact:

“I have been doing this for 30-plus years. The kid is so unique because of his size and his speed. He has the ability to string together multiple moves. He has the ability to step on the gas. He can do what we call cross the formation. There are a lot of good backs in this league, but they don’t have the speed to go across the formation,” Gettleman said Thursday night. “We all know he can catch the heck out of the rock. He is smart in blitz pickup, he sees it. That is probably the biggest issue with all these young rushers now. He is powerful, he runs through tackles and he runs through hits. When we were in here before, we were talking about quarterbacks and if they make everyone better. If you think about it, this kid makes our quarterback better, he makes our receivers better, he makes our O-line better. He makes our defense better because he has the much stronger ability to hold the ball.”

An “easy fit”

Shurmur said Thursday that Barkley will be an “easy fit” in the Giants’ offense.

“The running back is an easy guy to fit in an offense. You have to turn around and hand it to him. It doesn’t take a genius to do that. Then, a lot of times when you try and throw the ball downfield and they cover them all, you can dump him off the ball, or you can feature him in the pass game,” Shurmur said. “I have seen the effects of a really, really good running back not only on the offense, but on the team. You have to run the football not just for your offense, but for your team. I have seen the effect that a great running back can have on teams. I was excited about the fact that he was the best player in the draft and I was excited about the fact that we were able to draft him.”

Options for Eli Manning

One of the under-appreciated strengths of Manning’s game has always been the work he does at the line of scrimmage. Kevin Gilbride used to laud Manning’s ability to get the Giants into the right play based on what he saw from the defense. Ben McAdoo and Mike Sullivan did the same.

Manning’s stats and the Giants inability to win enough games in recent years tell you that while the quarterback might have been making the right moves at the line of scrimmage, the Giants didn’t have the ability to execute consistently enough.

With Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard they now have the play-makers to maximize Manning’s strengths. With Solder they have the left tackle. After Day 2 of the draft they will likely have at least one more piece on the offensive line.

Two-high safety defenses caused the Giants trouble the last couple of seasons. Barkley running the rock should help make defenses pay if they don’t crowd the box. Single-high safety looks should allow Manning and Co. options in the passing attack that haven’t been there the past couple of years.

“We’ll just have to see as we go and put this thing together,” Shurmur said. “He’s one of a bunch of guys that we’re going to get in the mix – Eli, him, Odell, Evan and ideally if we can spread the ball around and block him well, Shep. I mean we’ve got a lot of really good players and he’s going to be one of them.”

Will Barkley return kickoffs?

Barkley averaged 27.8 yards doing that the past two seasons for Penn State, and took two kickoffs back for touchdowns last season.

Shurmur gave what reads like a mixed message about whether or not Barkley would be used in that capacity by the Giants.

“We’re going to use him. We’re going to get him in the mix, we’re going to get him going as soon as we can get him here and then we’re going to train him as a running back,” Shurmur said. “He’ll perform return duties – typically, not normally your first returner. You can give him the ball enough times. I think when it comes down to touches and whatnot, we can give him the ball other ways.”

That sounds like one of those sometimes/maybe/when we need a big play kind of answers.

Final thoughts

Maybe Barkley was your choice for the Giants. Maybe he wasn’t. Most of the fan base seems happy. Personally, I still would have taken the quarterback. No matter. It’s done.

Will Barkley be a gold jacket player, a Hall of Famer? It’s unfair to put that on him when he hasn’t played an NFL snap. Barkley will make the Giants better. That should be enough to excite you.