The reasons why New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley will be even nastier in 2019 while stomping on the sophomore slump.
Some thought that Big Blue should’ve gone with a quarterback such as Sam Darnold, but passing up on a generational talent like Barkley is a tough chore. The Giants running back proved in his rookie season that he’s on his way to having a spectacular career.
In his inaugural season in the pros, the former Penn State Nittany Lion rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 91 balls for 721 yards and four scores through the air. His 2,028 yards from scrimmage led the NFL, which helped him earn AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pepsi Rookie of the Year and FedEx Ground Player of the Year.
But now, Barkley is going into his second year in the NFL. There’s a pesky little thing that some people like to call the “sophomore slump.” It’s nonsense when the name Saquon Barkley is involved, and in 2019, the backfield beast will be even more beastly despite an increased workload.
Why the increased workload? Well, sadly, Odell Beckham Jr. is gone. The Giants’ No. 1 receiver and Eli Manning‘s No. 1 target is now a Cleveland Brown, and the receivers for the Giants consist of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Corey Coleman, among others. But now that there’s no receiver such as Beckham who can be of threat at any point in the field, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur may look to run his offense exclusively through Barkley.
And if Daniel Jones plays a little this year, expect Barkley to get a lot of carries in those situations as well. When employing a rookie quarterback in this league, a good running back is a very beneficial asset to have. In this scenario, Barkley could take a lot of the pressure off of Jones when he’s in the game.
Barkley now has a year under his belt and experience against pro-style defenses. Exactly half of the schedule next year will be teams he faced off against in 2018, with the Redskins, Cowboys and Eagles all twice, along with the Bears and Buccanneers. Not to mention, out of the 13 teams the Giants are facing next year, only three were in the top 10 as far as rushing yards allowed per game. Four teams were actually in the bottom 10.
Of the teams Barkley will go up against in 2019, those defenses averaged 116.1 yards allowed per game in 2018. The league average was 114.44.
Along with the experience that Barkley now possesses, he also has an improved offensive line. Last year’s O-line was 22nd in the NFL with 47 sacks allowed and was ranked 21st overall by Pro Football Focus. The average PFF Grade between the five main starters throughout the year (Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Spencer Pulley, Jamon Brown and Chad Wheeler) was 58.98.
With that offensive line, Barkley was still able to lead the league in all-purpose yards.
Now, the offensive line will be even better. Solder and Hernandez will both be entering their second year with the Giants, thus more acclimated to Shurmur’s system. The Giants will also be getting their center Jon Halapio back, who missed nearly all of last season with an ankle injury.
They received guard Kevin Zeitler in the Olivier Vernon trade back in March, who’s a former first-round pick. Not to mention they also picked up former Vikings guard Mike Remmers in free agency, who worked with Shurmur during his tenure in Minnesota.
If the Giants were to start Solder, Hernandez, Halapio, Zeitler and Remmers in 2019, the average PFF grade would be an above-average 68.6. That’s almost a 10-point increase from last year’s offensive line.
Barkley broke numerous records with the 2018 offensive line. Now imagine what he can do with this new and improved front-five. That and his new-found experience are why he will be even better for Big Blue next season.