Saquon Barkley’s biggest impact may come in his blocking ability
In a league where the past two rushing leaders have been rookies, with Ezekiel Elliott winning the title in 2016, and Kareem Hunt securing it last year in 2017, Saquon Barkley looks to continue that trend with his own rookie campaign. New York Giants fans can only hope that Barkley will exceed his already incredibly high expectations and make it a third consecutive year in which a rookie has won this title.
With the Giants additions of OT Nate Solder and second round pick OG Will Hernandez, the rebuilt offensive line looks to make that happen. But Rome was not built in a day and this offensive line should not expect to be either. There are many uncertainties considering Solder is the only lineman who has proven himself to be a consistent and effective protector.
Which is where Barkley will play a big role. While fans across the country will look for head-turning plays and highlight reels, Barkley’s biggest impact may come as a blocker. Considering Evan Engram’s role as a pass-catching tight end, the major brunt of the blocking will be on the line and running back.
At the end of Barkley’s first day of rookie minicamp, he was already being praised for his skill set, but especially for his help in the passing game. A key component of Barkley’s game is his spatial awareness, and when it comes to pass protection, he excels at identifying his matchup and executing a block.
While Barkley’s height of 6’0 doesn’t match the size of Brandon Jacobs, coming in at 6’4, he still possesses the strength of running backs that size. In fact, when looking at NFL Combine results, Barkley actually put up 10 more reps than Jacobs did despite Jacobs being 30 pounds heavier and 4 inches taller.
It will be interesting to see how Eli Manning can operate with more time in the pocket. Manning was constantly under pressure last season with an average of two and half seconds to throw the ball, ranking fifth worst in the NFL according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Understandably, Manning never got a chance to truly enjoy what could be an incredible trio of receivers, being Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram.
Manning will especially enjoy the extra time he will be offered on play-action passing plays as opposing teams will have to treat Barkley as the threat he is. Simply put: the rookie is going to shine in numerous ways, and Giants fans should be thrilled with the team that Dave Gettleman has put together.
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