Saquon Barkley’s first game this season went so well that he earned himself heaps of praise among commentators and the NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, but it also highlighted the different approach that the Giants have taken with the back compared to the way other star running backs have been used following injuries.
The difference was never more evident than the way the Carolina Panthers, New York’s upcoming opponent. have limited Christian McCaffrey’s usage. McCaffrey had just 14 touches — 10 rushes and four receptions — for 57 total yards and was held out of practice on Wednesday to rest.
Carolina has been very careful to not overextend McCaffrey by keeping him out of the preseason as well after he missed 23 of 33 games over the previous two years. Barkley had been limited to just 15 games over the past two seasons entering this year after an ACL injury cost him the 2020 season early on and an ankle injury and COVID cost him time during last year.
However, the Giants haven’t been shy about getting him involved in the game. He was on the field during the preseason and then had 18 carries on Sunday and an additional six receptions.
As for what dictates when Barkley gets the ball, head coach Brian Daboll told reporters it had to do with the situation.
“I’d say it’s dictated kind of how the game plan goes but also the flow of the game,” Daboll said. “In terms of a number, I don’t go into the game saying, ‘Hey, let’s get him 50 plays’ or ‘Let’s get him 20 touches.’ I think that’s an adjustment part of the game, too. Obviously, he’s a very good player. You want him to touch the ball, but again, how he’s feeling, how you’re communicating on the sideline.”
Sunday’s performance has seemed to ease any concern that Barkley could still need time to work his way back to where he once was. Barkley has been adamant about the return to being healthy and the former second overall pick has made it a point to try and prove those that doubted him wrong.
The 25-year-old had bought into Daboll’s preaching of trusting the process and he’s been thankful he hasn’t found himself in a position like McCaffrey’s this year.
“This league is tough, not just on a running back but on any position, it’s the NFL,” Barkley said. “You’re going against grown men that have to feed a family and they’re coming at 20 miles per hour hitting you. It’s a crazy game. For me I’ve been out so many games the past two years that every day I just walk in I’m just thankful. I mean it is a credit to the work that I put in and I’ve got to give credit to the strength staff, the training staff here and all the people that I work with outside the building.”
Barkley’s performance on Sunday was a number of bright spots out of the Giants, who finally gave their fans something to cheer about to start the year. New York had been predicted to have a rough season, and while that hasn’t changed, the win gave another example of things starting to move in the right direction for the organization.
And Barkley is a big part of that.
“I’m a big believer in the work we put in and the work that I put in and the work I’ve put in the offseason and the work that put into camp was going to show,” Barkley said. “It was able to show in Week 1. I’ve just got to continue to trust the process, fall in love with the process, and continue to trust the linemen and the play calling and take it week-by-week and day-by-day.”