Spoiler alert! The New York Giants are better, or worse, at running back in 2023 solely depending on Saquon Barkley’s decision to play on the franchise tag. If the star running back decides to pull a Le’Veon Bell and sit the 2023 season out - which would cost him $600,000 a game - then the Giants’ RB room is significantly worse than last season.
If Barkley decides to play on the franchise tag, then the addition of Eric Gray and the retention of Matt Breida makes the running back room better than it was last season. Let’s expound upon that statement.
Key losses: N/A (we hope)
Key additions: Eric Gray
Other news: Saquon Barkley and the franchise tag
Why the Giants might be better
Let’s say Barkley signs his franchise tag and returns to the Giants ahead of the Week 1 home game against Dallas. He will miss some time in training camp, which isn’t a terrible circumstance. Snaps are crucial to the development of young players in practice.
The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement eliminated two-a-day practices; this limited practice snaps for developing players like Gray, who would likely be the first player to absorb what would have been Barkley’s snaps.
However, Breida and young players like Gary Brightwell and Jashaun Corbin will also assume the share of snaps that could provide the Giants clarity on who truly is the best option. It gives Gray, Brightwell, and Corbin more opportunities to prove themselves.
The Giants had a diversified rushing approach in 2022 under Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Bobby Johnson. They used different schemes and blocking angles to exploit defenses week-to-week. Adapting to the varied rushing styles takes time and practice, and the added reps in training camp should help the younger players.
At the end of the day, though, Barkley is the sole reason the Giants will be better than last season. If he is in the lineup, the Giants are better since they added Gray in the draft.
Why the Giants might be worse
The Giants are worse if Barkley decided to miss games and not play on his franchise tag. Barkley is a dynamic leader on the Giants who is a victim of the current running back market. Barkley isn’t doing anything wrong. He should look to extract as much money as possible; his plight is a sad reality bound to a deteriorating RB market.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s the current state of the market at the running back position. The purpose of this article, though, is to state if the Giants running back room is better or worse than last season, and there’s no way they’re better if Saquon Barkley isn’t donning 26 on Sept. 10.