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Giants’ position review: Saquon Barkley and who else at running back?

How can the Giants complement their star player?

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The New York Giants have Saquon Barkley at running back, and that’s a pretty good place to start in building a rushing attack and an offense. Barkley, though, isn’t indestructible. So, as we review the running back position for the Giants in 2019 and look ahead to 2020 with a new head coach, the question is what else do the Giants have?

Let’s examine that, along with the idea of a new offensive coordinator potentially using Barkley differently in 2020, as we continue our position-by-position look at the Giants heading into the offseason.

Starters: Saquon Barkley (HB), Elijhaa Penny (FB)
Reserves: Wayne Gallman, Buck Allen
Practice squad: Jon Hilliman

Let’s talk about Barkley

We know what Barkley is. A tremendous player, a home run threat every time he touches the ball as a runner or receiver, a young leader and a player a developing team like the Giants is fortunate to have as a foundational piece.

We also know what he’s not. He’s not indestructible, as his 2019 high ankle sprain showed. Watch the Giants for the last two years and you also know he’s not a banger, not a push the pile on every play and get you a couple of yards. Some of his runs will look ugly as he turns plays nothing into, well, worse than nothing. When it’s spectacular, though, nobody does spectacular like Barkley.

Missing more than three games and playing at less than 100 percent in others meant Barkley didn’t come close in 2019 to matching his rookie production. He did, though, squeeze over 1,000 yards (1,003). He averaged 77,2 yards rushing per game, only slightly off the 81.7 he got as a rookie. His per carry average of 4.6 yards wasn’t the 5.0 he averaged in 2018, but it was still good. He caught 52 passes after snagging 91 as a rookie, but his per catch average went up from 7.9 to 8.4 yards.

There’s no reason to worry about Barkley going forward. What we worry about is how the Giants’ new offensive coordinator, whoever that will be, ends up utilizing him. Will the Giants get Barkley to the edge more than Pat Shurmur did? Will they use him more as a downfield receiving threat? We think both of those are good ideas.

Here’s another good idea

Find a reliable backup, preferably an inside power runner, to take some of the workload from Barkley. Let Barkley be the home-run hitter without having to barrel straight ahead into 320-pound defensive tackles, something that just doesn’t play to his strengths.

Wayne Gallman was, for some reason, never a favorite of the Shurmur coaching staff. He seems to do a lot of things adequately, which makes him ideal in many ways for a backup role. If you’re looking for a banger, though, he’s not it.

Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen had passed Gallman on the depth chart by the end of the 2019 season, but he never got significant carries and I’m not sure he will have a place on the roster going forward.

Jon HIlliman couldn’t earn starting snaps consistently at Boston College or Rutgers. When the Giants were forced to him use after injuries to Barkley and Gallman that, predictably, went badly.

One more idea

If you’re going to have a fullback, get a real one. Elijhaa Penny offers some flexibility as a runner and receiver, but he is truly a bulked-up halfback who doesn’t offer the one thing a fullback is really on any roster for — the ability to blow a linebacker or a defensive back out of a hole to clear a lane for a running back.

Is running back a need in 2020?

The Giants obviously aren’t looking for a lead back. I wouldn’t have any objection, though, to using a mid-round pick or combing through the secondary parts of free agency to find some depth at this spot.