When the New York Giants drafted Saquon Barkley in 2018 their intentions for him were clear, immediately saying that he is a player who could be a “Face Of The Franchise.” A year later, and that’s what Barkley is, the face of the Giants, and the focus of the offense.
So of course Barkley was a major draw and focus in the locker room as the Giants prepare for their home opener against the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s always great to get back and play in front of the home fans,” Barkley said. “Giants fans are amazing fans. (It’s great) Any time you get back and play in front of New York, especially for my family coming from close, being home so they can come out to the game. I have a lot more people there. Now my daughter is a little older. She doesn’t really understand the game, but she’s definitely more interactive with it. It’s going to be fun.”
But as exciting as the home opener is, it can’t be ignored that the Giants’ 2019 season got off to a poor start. But as far as Barkley is concerned, the week two match up against the Bills is just another game.
He said, “It’s another game on the schedule. It’s our first game at home, so it’ll be great to get a win just for the team and the fans. But it’s the start of the season. Just take it one game at a time and try to find a way to win this week.”
On the Giants’ running game
If there’s one thing that really sticks out when it comes to the Giants’ offense, it is how little Barkley touched the football against the Dallas Cowboys. All told, Barkley saw 17 opportunities between targets in the passing game (6) and touches as a runner (11).
Over the last few days, many have seized upon Barkley’s relatively limited looks in breaking down the Giants’ opening week loss. For his part, Barkley isn’t going to question his coach and is willing to do whatever he asks — even if it is not be the focus of the offense.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Barkley said. “If we play better than we did last game, and we execute what we need to execute, I don’t think the conversation will be about 15 touches. I think we find a way to win that game. But at the end of the day, Dallas made more plays than us. We just have to find a way to do that better next game.”
The crux of the matter is that while Barkley didn’t touch the ball often, he was very productive when he did. He totaled 120 yards on those 11 carries, a ridiculous 10.9 yards per carry. Even if we discount his 59-yard run on the second play of the game, Barkley still averaged an incredible 6.1 yards per carry.
Not that Barkley was particularly surprised by the play of the team’s blockers.
“It’s very encouraging,” he said. “I knew that was going to happen. We had a great offseason and a great camp. The offensive line has been playing tremendously and at a great level. Coach (Shurmur) has been calling great, especially with the run game. I believe that it’ll have a tremendous impact on the running game this season. It may not be like that every game, but when it’s like that, we have to take advantage of it. Not only myself, but Wayne (Gallman) and (Paul) Perk are both capable of making those plays when we need it. I’m really excited for the future of this season, and especially coming up for the next game.”
On starting 0-1
Nobody really thought that the Giants would be a juggernaut of a team coming in to the season. Most figured that the first game of the season would probably go down as a loss — a hard-fought loss, but a loss none the less. But after a preseason that saw the Giants finish 4-0 with four strong performances (three of which ended with at least 30 or more points on the board), the Giants’ 35-17 loss came as a shock.
Barkley isn’t putting much stock in the team’s preseason performance.
“The preseason is the preseason,” he said. “It’s great to go undefeated in the preseason, but that’s with a 90-man roster. It’s pretty much a whole new roster when you get down to 53 and 46 when you suit up. Was I surprised that Dallas came and opened up a big lead? Yes, because we were playing at a high level, not only in the preseason, but also in camp.”
But that being said, he also believes that the Giants are better than they showed in Dallas, saying, “We were just making too many mental mistakes. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Dallas. They played a heck of a game and they’re a heck of a team. But at the end of the day when you go back and watch film, a lot of it came down to us and what we did wrong. If we can find a way to make those plays and execute differently, then I think the outcome could be a lot closer or a different game for us.”
When asked for his message to his teammates, Barkley (perhaps unintentionally) quoted Douglas Adams’ legendary “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” by telling them — don’t panic.
“Don’t panic,” Barkley said. “It’s not like I really have to give that message to the team. It doesn’t feel like that in the locker room. I feel like it’s more everyone outside of our locker room that’s panicking. When you break it down, there are 32 teams in the NFL. Half of those teams lost last week, besides two of them that tied. But half of those teams lost. Any team in the NFL, just because you won big doesn’t mean you’re going to go 16-0. Just because you lost badly doesn’t mean you’re going to go 0-16. Don’t panic. Just find a way to get better every single week. Get 1 percent better every single day. When the games come, just try to execute at a high level.”