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The hiring of Mike Shula as offensive coordinator may lead to the New York Giants taking Saquon Barkley with No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft.

The Carolina Connection is in full bloom as New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman tabbed former Panthers coach Mike Shula as the new offensive coordinator for Big Blue this week.

In his five seasons as offensive coordinator for the Panthers, Shula used the running game as a centerpiece to the Carolina offense. The Panthers ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing this season to help them make it back to the playoffs. When the Panthers made it to the Super Bowl in 2015, running the football was a big reason why.

Both Gettleman and new head coach Pat Shurmur have publicly said that a big priority is addressing the run game.

With Shula now plugged in as the new offensive coordinator, it very well could indicate that the Giants are targeting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft.

It was just last year when both Gettleman and Shula were with the Panthers, that they selected running back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick in the draft.

Shula used McCaffrey in a variety of ways this past season, including lining him up in the backfield and out as a receiver in the slot. Gettleman and Shula may see Barkley in a similar role and more, with his size and strength to be a powerful runner inside the tackles.

Barkley’s skill set and size has him linked to former top 10 picks like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette who all made huge impacts from the running back position for their respective teams in the past few years.

Snagging a coveted back like Barkley would benefit the Giants immensely, especially seeing as how they ranked 26th in rushing last season and were 29th in 2016. Clearly the lack of a strong, athletic running back has haunted them these past two years. 

Offensive line issues the past few season have also plagued the running game, but the roller coaster of running backs the Giants have thrown out in the backfield the couple of seasons are ultimately the main reason for the struggles.

Since the days of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, the Giants haven’t had a stable running back to trust with the ball. In fact, Bradshaw is the last Giants running back to run over 1,000 yards, rushing for 1,015 yards back in 2012.

David Wilson, Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa have all been either rattled by injuries or have, at best, been inconsistent for the Giants in the backfield.

Right now, the Giants only have Perkins and last year’s fourth round pick Wayne Gallman as their running backs for the 2018 season. Gallman played well in spurts in 2017 but, much like Perkins, was inconsistent at running and catching the ball out of the backfield.

Barkley could serve as that stable piece at running back the Giants have needed the last few years and help get the Big Blue running game back on track.

New York Giants Saquon Barkley
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Most would say the Giants should take a quarterback for the second overall pick, but with Eli Manning still the man under center and having second-year quarterback Davis Webb behind him, the Giants shouldn’t feel pressured into nabbing a quarterback so early on in the draft. They may also believe that they can get the right quarterback later on in the draft in prospects like Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph.

The Giants right now seem to be focused on addressing the running game. With the Carolina Connection of Shula in the fold, we could be seeing Saquon Barkley as part of Big Blue this upcoming season.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter: @SBassin_Sports