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Giants 2021 roster profile: RB Saquon Barkley

Will Barkley be the real Barkley this season, or will he be less than what he was following torn ACL?

NFL: New York Giants at Chicago Bears
This was the last time we saw Saquon Barkley in a Giants uniform.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Will Saquon Barkley be Saquon Barkley? Indications are that the New York Giants star running back is on track to be ready for the 2021 NFL after a torn ACL in 2020 that ended his season before it was even two weeks old. What the Giants need to see is whether he is still the breathtaking Barkley of his record-setting 2018 rookie season, or whether some of the explosiveness that made him unique vaporized into the Soldier Field turf when he was carried off last year.

There are two fairly recent examples from opposite ends of the performance spectrum when it comes to running backs and knee injuries.

Adrian Peterson rebounded from a torn ACL and MCL late in the 2011 season to gain 2,097 yards rushing, average 6.0 yards per carry, run the ball 348 times, and catch it on 40 more occasions in 2012. At 35, he was still an effective player for the Detroit Lions in 2020.

Todd Gurley tore an ACL in college at Georgia, and had a terrific start to his career in the NFL. As his knee has deteriorated, though, so has his performance. Entering his age 27 season, Gurley is still looking for a team.

Let’s take a closer look at Barkley as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

The basics

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 233
Age: 24
Position: RB
Experience: 3
Contract: Final year of four-year, $31,194,751M rookie contract | Guaranteed: $31,194,751M | Fifth-year option: Worth $7.217M for the 2022 season, the Giants have already exercised it.

Career to date

In 2018, Barkley was everything GM Dave Gettleman thought he would be when he went against conventional wisdom and made the running back the second overall pick in the draft.

Barkley (2,028) joined Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson as the only running back to surpass 2,000 total yards from scrimmage. He set a rookie record for running backs with 91 receptions. He was AP Offensive Rookie of The Year, and made the Pro Bowl.

Mostly, he was a human highlight reel. Again and again, Barkley did things it didn’t seem like human beings were meant to do.

The last two seasons have not been nearly as magical.

Barkley missed 3½ games in 2019 with a high ankle sprain, and was obviously not the explosive Barkley of 2018 until the season’s final three weeks. He squeezed above 1,000 yards rushing (1,003) and still averaged 4.5 yards per carry. He wasn’t though, 2018 Barkley.

In 2019, he carried only 19 times for 34 yards (1.8 yards per carry) before seeing his season come to an unfortunate end.

2021 projection

Gurley or Peterson? Peterson or Gurley? The Giants would love a 2012 Peterson-esque performance, but they would certainly take somewhere in between 2012 Peterson and 2020 Gurley.

Dr. Kyle Flik, an orthopedic surgeon and team doctor for many minor league and college-level teams in the Albany, N.Y. area, told Big Blue View last September that Barkley had “a 90 percent chance of returning and returning at the same level.”

Still, even with modern medical miracles, there is that 10 percent to worry about.

Giants Super Bowl 25 MVP Ottis Anderson dealt with many injuries during his career, and told the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that “you just don’t know” what a running back will be coming off a major injury.

Barkley has many things going for him. He’s only 24 years old, not yet into his late 20s. He is in incredible physical condition. He has access to the best doctors and the best possible rehab options.

Barkley will return to a team that has more offensive play-makers than at any time since he joined the team. He should have plenty of help.

It’s just a guess, but I think Barkley is going to be just fine. At least in the short term. three, four, five years down the road is anybody’s guess.

I’m setting the over/under on Barkley yards from scrimmage at 1,500, considering the addition of a 17th game to the schedule. Vote in the poll and tell us which one you would take.


Will Saquon Barkley be over or under 1,500 total yards from scrimmage for the 2021 season?

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