Throughout recent NFL history, running backs have fought hard to maintain key value in contract negotiations. The New York Giants are just the latest team to learn how serious that position group is.
Saquon Barkley’s contract is the chief story everyone in East Rutherford will be looking at once training camp begins. Will the former second-overall pick sit out of key practice time? Could he just not show up as several others have done in the past?
Many of those questions won’t be answered until practices actually begin in the coming weeks.
In the meantime though, we continue our training camp preview with the Giants this week – this time dissecting their running back room.
Runningbacks on Roster: Saquon Barkley, Matt Brieda, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
New York has done an excellent job this offseason in adding talent to minimize the strain of Barkley being a bell cow as he was last season. The Giants still won’t be as good as they could be so long as their prized back doesn’t show up. It’s also hard to replace the level of production the Penn State product put up last season. Barkley tallied 10 touchdowns on 1,300 yards rushing while leading New York in most offensive categories. At times, Big Blue’s offense ran solely through him and their quarterback Daniel Jones.
Part of the reason why the value of a running back has decreased so much is that the position is heavily influenced based on how good (or bad) an offensive line is.
Luckily for New York, the revamping of the offensive line has gone on for the last year, and the results have already shown to be impressive. John Michael Schmitz, Andrew Thomas, and Evan Neal have plenty of potential that show how much growth has been undertaken within the Giants’ offensive structure.
Matt Brieda, Gary Brightwell, and Eric Gray could certainly help minimize the hits Barkley ends up taking as well. Brightwell and Brieda are change-of-pace backs that can both perform well in the passing game. Gray is New York’s fifth-round pick that could also add some needed help inside.
But in the end, the Giants’ upcoming season comes down to Barkley. If the Pro Bowl running back can make the most of his chances next season (albeit with a new contract), New York could very well be looking at a chance to continue their recent runoff success from last season.
Until Barkley’s contract gets resolved though, the biggest questions surrounding the Giants running back room will be whether or not the vet shows up for the important parts of training camp.