There are not many things that New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley can’t do at an elite level. In just two seasons, the Pro Bowler has quickly cemented himself as one of, if not the best all-around playmaker in football. Two 1,000-plus yard rushing campaigns and a 90-plus reception season will do that for a player.
However, Barkley’s lapses in pass-protection dating back to last season have grown concerning in Giants circles, an issue that appears to be showing itself once again at times during training camp.
Barkley’s Lapses in Pass Protection Continue
The Giants Insider Newspaper recently took to Twitter to note a few observations from last Thursday’s practice, and buried in their litter of notes read “Barkley struggled in pass pro snap.”
When it comes to a player of Barkley’s magnitude, you’d typically write off the mishap as one bad play, a mental lapse, etc. However, when that said player has been labeled a “liability in pass-protection” it’s likely worth a closer look.
When NFL.com’s Maurice Jones-Drew released his personal running back rankings earlier this summer, he was met with plenty of fan bashing, namely due to Barkley’s placement at No. 6. While the ranking still appears outrageous on the surface, you can’t help but understand his reasoning.
“Barkley is one of the most talented players in the NFL. There’s no questioning that,” Jones-Drew admitted. “BUT his pass protection is horrible.” The former NFL rushing champ went on to add that “I need to see this part of his game improve.”
MJD pointed directly to a failed blocking assignment against the New York Jets last season as a prime example of his struggles. During the play, which can be seen below, Barkley is bullied by safety Jamal Adams at the point of attack, leading to a strip-sack of quarterback Daniel Jones and a return for a touchdown. The Giants would go on to lose the game by just one-score, 34-27.
Saquon Barkley had his worst game as a pro against the Jets today.
On top of carrying the ball 13 times for just 1 yard, he was a liability in pass protection.
— Kevin Boilard (@KevinBoilard) November 10, 2019
After the game Barkley took ownership of his missed block, noting “I let up one touchdown,“ the running back said. “I’ve got to stop that.”
That play is just one in a handful that highlights Barkley’s shortcomings in pass-protection last year. Shortcomings that led to backup Wayne Gallman replacing Barkley at times last season during passing situations to stay in as a blocker.
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Barkley: ‘I’m Gonna Get Better at It’
Thankfully for Giants fans, and Daniel Jones’ health, Barkley has a few things going for him that should lead to improved play as a pass protector.
For starters, Barkley, who played the majority of last season with a bum ankle, now appears to be back to 100-percent, which in return should lead to better stability and leg drive as a blocker.
Furthermore, he’s proven in the past to be more than viable in pass protection. Coming out of college, Barkley tied with Patriots’ Sony Michel, as the top-rated RBs in pass protection for the 2018 draft class, via Fantasy Points’ Graham Barfield.
However, more important than anything is Barkley’s work ethic, which is second to none. The Giants running back has pinpointed his underwhelming performance as a blocker and he’s taking the correct actions to improve upon it. And while he may be enduring some growing pains during camp, chances are he’s headed in the right direction.
“The biggest thing I have to focus on is hands. Using my hands,” Barkley said late last season, per NorthJersey.com. “Shoot my hands, and time them at the right time and not duck my head. That’s the biggest thing. Squat down, anchor down, use my hands. I got beat a couple times this year. It’s how you learn from it, how you move on from it. I watched film on it, put it in the past. I’m gonna get better at it.”
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