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Saquon Barkley: Giants ‘are not that far’ from contending

Saquon Barkley Giants
Giants running back Saquon Barkley
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

While the Giants watched their former teammate in Odell Beckham Jr. prepare and compete in Super Bowl LVI, running back Saquon Barkley was in Los Angeles talking about the Giants future — and imploring that things are in a lot better shape as they may seem. 

“I know it’s been rough, but we’re not that far,” Barkley told the Pat McAfee Show. “I truly, truly believe we’re not that far. We have the talent, now we bring in the right pieces, the right coaching staff, now we have to draft well, bring guys in free agency.”

The Giants have been the worst team in the NFL over the last five seasons, sporting a 22-59 overall record while making the playoffs just one time over the last decade. 

This offseason has already sparked sweeping changes throughout the organization and a complete revamp of its leadership structure. General manager Dave Gettleman retired before head coach Joe Judge was fired. The Giants turned to the Buffalo Bills to fill the void, bringing on Joe Schoen as GM and Brian Daboll as head coach. 

Both have impressed in their early days with the team, rounding out a strong coaching staff that features former Chiefs quarterback Mike Kafka as offensive coordinator. 

“We have some talented players, we have to find a way to stay healthy,” Barkley said lamenting the long-term losses of quarterback Daniel Jones, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, and offensive lineman Nick Gates among others. “We have a whole new coaching staff that’s coming in. So it’s new. The energy is going to be different. As players, we have a chance to prove ourselves again. That’s something I’m looking forward to. To prove myself and show there are different things I can do to help this team win.” 

Barkley has plenty to prove. The man who was supposed to be a franchise savior has been hampered by injuries that have suddenly created questions about his long-term viability for the franchise that selected him second overall in 2018. After posting 2,310 rushing yards in his first two seasons, the 25-year-old accrued just 627 yards from 2020 to 2021. 

“If people want to say I lost a step, I’m fine with that,” Barkley said. “But when things turn around, just stay on that side.”

The Giants have two golden opportunities to acquire game-changing talents at the 2022 NFL Draft with a pair of top-10 picks (No. 5 and 7) which, according to Barkley, will further enhance the team’s existing pool of talent.

“We have the right players. I’m not just saying that,” Barkley said. “We have guys that are willing to come in and work, grind, do whatever it takes to win games. When you’re 3-and-whatever, 2-and-whatever, there are guys who are going to miss meetings, guys who won’t show up. Everyone is locked in, everyone is still trying to get better.”

It has the most optimistic fan hoping that the Giants can pull of what the Cincinnati Bengals just did — winning six games combined in their previous two seasons before winning the AFC crown.

“I’m not trying to make any crazy projections,” Barkley said. “The Bengals a couple years ago, they weren’t a Super Bowl team. They got the right pieces, the people who believe in them… a coaching staff who puts in the right plays. I believe we have that. Joe Schoen, he’s doing an amazing job doing all the hiring. 

“We’ve got something going there.”

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