Rod Marinelli doesn’t see a Pro Bowler or All-Pro in New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley.
He sees a future Hall-of-Famer.
“It’s like Barry Sanders,” the Cowboys‘ defensive coordinator said Thursday, via the Dallas Morning News. “You may have a lot of plays where you keep him to a minimum, five-yards here and then [he] has the ability to break the long one. And you got to be on top of it, detailed the entire game. You got to be disciplined. Guys got to do their job before they release blocks.”
Marinelli was an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Sanders, the former Lions great, was tearing up the NFL. As Pro Football Talk notes, Sanders broke off 80- and 82-yard touchdown runs in a 1997 game against Marinelli — the first (and still only) game in NFL history in which a player logged two 80-plus-yard scampers.
Barkley was hardly Sandersian during two meetings with the Cowboys last season, however. In the first rivalry tilt, he totaled just 28 yards on 11 carries amid a 20-13 defeat. In the second, a meaningless finale, Barkley found some room, logging 17 totes for 109 yards and a touchdown in a wild 36-35 loss.
“He’s got great vision but the decisiveness, when it’s there for him to take it, in space, he’s always tough. He’s been tough all [last] year in space. So you got to really work as a defense,” Marinelli said, per PFT.
He’s predicted to pop off Sunday at AT&T Stadium in the inaugural 2019 meeting of the NFC East foes. Last week, FS1’s Cris Carter projected 200 rushing yards for Barkley against what was the ninth-best run defense last year.
“Don’t sleep on the Giants,” Carter warned. “Especially with the defensive line being in question for Dallas. Barkley can rush for 200 yards in that first game and the Giants could pull off that upset.”
While the Cowboys are highly unlikely to bleed that many yards, New York won’t be shy about feeding its workhorse, who finished second in rushing yards, behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, amid a phenomenal 2018 rookie campaign.
The game plan calls for Barkley, Barkley, and — you guessed it! — Barkley.
Marinelli is just hoping he doesn’t morph into Barry.
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Saquon Happy for Zeke
The Giants’ centerpiece was among several current NFLers who threw their support behind Elliott in his quest for a new contract. Now that Zeke is signed, sealed, and delivered, the newly-minted highest-paid RB, Barkley couldn’t be happier about avoiding a possible Le’Veon Bell-type holdout.
“More just because [I was] happy for him to get that deal done,” he said Thursday, per the New York Post. “You don’t want to see another situation like with Le’Veon Bell [holdingout for the season]. … Not only do I play the position, I’m a fan of the position. I love competition.”
Speaking of competition, Barkley took umbrage to Elliott terming himself the NFL’s best back — his justification for demanding to become the richest-ever at his position. In this sense, he believes, No. 26 supersedes No. 21.
“I’m happy he said that,” Barkley said, per the Post. “He believes he’s the best, I believe I’m the best. You ask Todd Gurley, he’s going to believe he’s the best. That’s how it should be.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL