One day, the Giants may end up regretting passing on a quarterback with this year’s second-overall pick, but it seems impossible for them to have drafted a greater talent.
Despite another game when the offense largely struggled to string together first downs, Saquon Barkley was a non-stop highlight reel, breaking off multiple eye-popping runs, while racking up 229 total yards, and a touchdown, in the Giants’ 34-13 loss to the Eagles on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
With his career-best outing, Barkley became just the second player in NFL history (Kareem Hunt) to record at least 100 yards from scrimmage in his first six career games, finishing with 130 rushing yards on 13 carries, while adding another 99 yards on nine receptions.
As often as the crowd was quieted by the team’s terrible play, Barkley consistently made the crowd sound more than half-full, showing a level of effort so many of his teammates lacked.
“Come to work with your head down, try to do anything you can possible to help the team,” Barkley said this week, while discussing taking on a leadership role. “That stuff goes a long way. Obviously your play on the field goes a long way, too. … Stuff like that is what sits well with your team and that’s how I try to continue to grow into that role.”
If Barkley’s game continues to grow, the Giants may not need a successor to Eli Manning, and may be best off throwing the running back into the wildcat, and watching what he can accomplish, with his generational mix of speed, strength, vision and elusiveness.
With the Eagles up 7-0 early in the first quarter, the Giants gave Barkley three straight touches, which included a 46-yard run to Philadelphia’s 18-yard line. Then, Barkley came out to rest, and the Giants were forced to settle for a field goal.
On the next possession, Barkley turned a play destined for no gain into a 9-yard run, as he leapt over two defenders. Later in the second quarter, Barkley took a screen pass from Manning, and made one of the best runs of his young career, cutting back multiple times, and breaking multiple tackles, for a 55-yard gain. The Giants would soon have first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, and give Barkley just one touch, before settling for another field goal, putting the Giants down 14-6 with less than six minutes left in the second quarter.
By the time Barkley touched the end zone — breaking a 50-yard run midway through the third quarter for his sixth touchdown in six games — the Eagles still led 31-13.
The rookie could only do so much, even if he so often seems like he can do it all.