The Giants are the worst sort of bad team: one whose braintrust clearly believed was a contender for a playoff spot in the offseason, only to be revealed as a total moribund disaster once the regular season began. Most of this is because Eli Manning is a husk of himself and presently either unable or unwilling to throw the ball downfield. The cascading effect of Manning’s ineptitude means that Odell Beckham Jr. now just sort of hangs out and sometimes catches very short passes. The offense only works when the ball is out of Manning’s hands. And thank God, because that usually means he’s handed it off to Saquon Barkley.
Last night, Barkley had 130 rushing yards on 13 attempts, and a team-high nine receptions for a team-high 99 yards. Every time he touches the ball, it feels like something incredible could happen, and he’s reached 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first six games. Because Manning is now profoundly allergic to throwing actual forward passes, Barkley’s already caught 40 passes this year, just five fewer than Beckham. Most of those are little checkdowns, but Barkley is such a dynamic runner that he still averages a 9.3 yards per catch. Watch him wriggle his way from one sideline to the other, here.
How do you tackle someone this strong and this balanced? That center of gravity stays low even when defenders are knocking Barkley around, and bringing him down takes either a square hit or multiple players. He’s quick and slippery but the dude is also a tank, with thighs the size and shape of harbor seals. He’s also fast as hell.
This is as good of a nine-yard run as you will see all year.
This is the sort of production the Giants were banking on when they took Barkley second overall in last year’s draft—a decision that also consigned themselves to a final year of Manning—and yet it still doesn’t feel like he’s the focal point of their offense. Barkley is the only part of the team that really works right now, and if the Giants were truly in a position to win, they’d be wise to give it to Barkley until teams started stacking the box against the run.
However, this year’s already a lost one, so it’s not like the Giants need to ride him the same way the Cowboys rode Ezekiel Elliott in his sensational rookie season. It would be much better for both Barkley and the organization, given this bleak season and the painfully short life-cycle of a NFL running back, if they didn’t. I just hope the Giants get their organizational shit together in time to win some games with Barkley while he’s still at his peak.