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Giants Saquon Barkley takes first step in proving doubters wrong with big Week 1

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Saquon Barkley is a dark horse for NFL MVP
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates after the Giants defeated the Tennessee Titans 21-20 in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Nashville.
AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

It may have been just one game, but it’s hard to not get excited over the prospect that Saquon Barkley may be finding himself again. 

It was his stellar performance that helped the Giants pick up a season-opening win over the Tennessee Titans. Barkley rushed for 164 yards on 18 carries and made his way into the end zone, even scoring the two-point conversion that helped win New York the game. 

While, yes, it was the first game of the season, Barkley’s performance was the first step in fulfilling his promise during the offseason to prove the doubters wrong. For the first time in a while, the former first-round pick looked like the explosive player that had made a name for himself at Penn State and showed plenty of promise his rookie year.

The Giants running back was a force to be reckoned with during the course of the game on Sunday and as the day progressed the more Barkley bore down and carried the team on his back. 

“I kind of started to get into the zone. Started locking in,” Barkley said after the win. “I kind of love being in that place. I’ve got to try to find a way to get in that place a little bit more and a little quicker. It’s a lot easier to rip off those runs when you’ve got (Jon Feliciano) and the boys pulling and a set an edge and opening up the gap and getting me one-on-one with a corner.

“We had a heck of a game, but definitely we give shouts to the line. They play tremendously.”

What was equally as impressive is that the effort had come against one of the best backs in the league. Derrick Henry was the focus of the Giants’ defense going into the game and by the end of the day, it was Barkley who had finished as the better back. 

However, that wasn’t how the Giants running back looked at it. 

“I’m not playing Derrick Henry. I have nothing but respect for him. He’s a heck of a player, one of the best players in the league,” Barkley said. “It’s not like just competing against him. I’m not looking to see what my numbers are, his numbers. It’s more like, you’re peeking a little bit more. This guy, any moment, can keep breaking a long one. That’s more of respect.” 

Still, Barkley’s teammates weren’t shy about their feelings about the 25-year-old. 

“You saw the explosiveness and it was fun to watch him,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. 

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans defense during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Nashville.

The performance by Barkley was only a first step for him. After dealing with injuries and coming up short in his own game, the jury is still out on whether Sunday was a sign of what’s to come or just a blip on the map. 

Barkley had looked as explosive as ever during training camp and in the preseason. Part of what has helped, according to the back, has been not changing his approach. 

“That’s been my mindset,” he said. “No matter what, win, loss, tie, I just want to come here with the same mindset and just keep enjoying the process and come to work every single day. We had a great week of practice and no matter what the result was going to be, we can’t let that alter what happens this week.”

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