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Saquon Barkley ‘doesn’t know how to play running back,’ says NFC coach

Criticism of Giants’ running back just keeps piling up

New York Giants Mandatory Minicamp
Saquon Barkley
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Saquon Barkley just keeps taking hits from the national NFL media as the 2022 season approaches.

The latest comes from an NFC coach in an ESPN article [subscriber only] that left Barkley out of a list of the league’s top 10 running backs. Here is what the anonymous coach said:

“I’m down on him — he still doesn’t know how to play running back enough,” a veteran NFL offensive coach said. “He’s a bouncer. He wants every run to be a home run. He’s going to have to learn that 4-yard runs in this league are good, instead of stopping, cutting it back and losing 2. And he gets his ass kicked in protection.”

Just a few days ago, Dan Hanzus of dropped Barkley from the NFL ‘Superstar Club.’ He wrote:

Last year, I wrote that Barkley gave me pause because of his injury history and slow recovery from reconstructive knee surgery. And yet, I granted him another year in The Superstar Club because those dominant stretches in his early years with the Giants still felt recent and attainable. It’s hard to say that after a forgettable 2021 season in which the former No. 2 overall pick averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Yes, Barkley was trapped in a terrible offense run by [checks notes] Joe Judge and Jason Garrett (oof), but he also lacked the explosiveness he showcased before his knee injury. The version of Barkley who came out of Penn State could turn doomed plays into huge gainers. The guy we watched last fall in the Meadowlands rarely got more than what the defense gave him. Still just 25, Barkley gets a fresh start with a great offensive mind in new head coach Brian Daboll. We’re hopeful, but Barkley needs to prove himself again.

Valentine’s View

It is impossible for me to argue against any of this. I stopped calling him ‘superstar running back Saquon Barkley’ a long time ago. I have talked for years now about Barkley not wanting to run with power inside, and about his frustrating tendency to turn what should be short gains into short losses. And, no, Barkley does not pass protect well.

So, I’m not arguing with any of it.

Former Giants scouting assistant Tom Rudawsky and I discussed Barkley on a recent episode of the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast.

“He does always look to bounce runs outside,” Rudawsky said. “Almost a little too much, in my opinion. I think there are plays and there are times when a running back just needs to kind of keep within the tackles and get what’s blocked, 3, 4, 5 yards.”

Rudawsky thinks the arrival of head coach Brian Daboll will be good for Barkley.

“Brian Daboll could really be perfect for Saquon and what he needs. Certainly we all understand Saquon’s entering a huge season with a lot of pressure on him specifically this season and that relationship of him to Brian Daboll could lead to a lot of success, I think,” Rudawsky said.

“Brian Daboll’s offense is definitely more spread out. Certainly Daboll doesn’t have a reputation of a run-first coordinator, but that’s not a bad thing for Saquon. In fact, I think that will be a really good thing because I think situationally Saquon will be in better positions and will be put in better spots to have a lot more success than maybe we’ve seen the last few years. Certainly he needs it.”

Rudawsky opined that getting Barkley out from between the tackles would be best for him.

“He’s at his best on the perimeter. He’s not a between-the-tackles bruiser who is meant to have 25 to 30 carries a game and wear down a defense. That’s not the type of runner he is,” Rudawsky said. “I don’t want to call him a finesse runner because I think that that would be doing him a disservice, but I think he is better on the perimeter where he can use that change of direction, that explosiveness, those unbelievable athletic qualities that he has, as opposed to being inside the tackles, ground and pound type mentality.”