Saquon Barkley Pat Shurmur
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Behind a revamped offensive line, Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants will wear down their opponents with the running game.

Jason Leach

Back in 2017 when Pat Shurmur was an offensive coordinator in Minnesota, the Vikings ran the ball 501 times. This was second most in the NFL and helped paved the way to their 13-3 record and an eventual NFC Championship Game berth.

As he enters his second season as New York Giants head coach, Shurmur may implement the same strategy he did in 2017 when he was with the Vikings.

It has been a busy offseason for the Giants and they spent a bulk of it addressing the offensive line. They re-signed center Jon Halapio, whose 2018 season was cut short in Week 2 with a fractured leg. They traded their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon, to the Browns for right guard Kevin Zeitler. Finally, last week, they signed free agent right tackle Mike Remmers.

With the left side of the line solidified with left tackle Nate Solder and guard Will Hernandez, on paper, this is the best line the Giants have had since they won their last Super Bowl.

Despite what some thought earlier in the offseason, general manager Dave Gettleman had a plan. He made this offense much more physical.

The offensive line, which has been the Giants’ Achilles heel for the past several seasons, might now be the strongest unit on the team. Expect Shurmur to implement a ground-and-pound mentality with his offense, just as he did with the Vikings.

In 2017, Shurmur had Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon to spearhead the Vikings ground game once Dalvin Cook was lost for the season with a torn ACL. This year, he will use the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year and all-world running back, Saquon Barkley.

As spectacular as Barkley’s rookie season was, gaining 1,307 yards on the ground on 261 carries while setting numerous franchise rookie records, he’s poised to have an even bigger sophomore campaign. Behind this offensive line and Shurmur’s commitment to the ground game, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Barkley could become the eighth running back to rush for 2,000 yards in the season.

But Shurmur won’t run Barkley into the ground. Sure, Barkley will get the bulk for the carries, but you can expect third-year running back Wayne Gallman and newly acquired Rod Smith to spell Barkley. By season’s end, Barkley will have over 300 carries and the Giants may lead the league in rushing attempts.

With the ground game being the focal point of the Giants’ offense, all they will need is for 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning to play sound and mistake-free football, similarly to what Case Keenum did for Shurmur in 2017.

That season, in 15 games, Keenum completed 67.6% off his passes for 3,547 yards to go along with 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

Last season, Manning put up similar numbers to Keenum’s 2017 marks, completing a career-high 66% of his passes for 4,299 yards and 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions all while playing behind a subpar offensive line.

This year, the challenge for Manning will be playing without three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But playing behind a vastly improved offensive line will outweigh the loss of Beckham.

With a change in offensive philosophy, the Giants and their fans hope that it will bring success in the upcoming season. Not only will they mirror what the 2017 Vikings did, but they’ll also play a comparable type of smash mouth football. That’s how they won their first two Super Bowls (21 and 25).

The 2019 New York Giants success will come down to the 300-pound hog mollies up front and the quads of beastly Saquon Barkley.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.