When you use a first-round NFL draft pick on a running back, the No. 2 overall selection at that, the hope is that he will carry the brunt of the workload in your backfield and be a key offensive catalyst for years to come. That not only means being effective in the ground game but also as a receiver and a pass-blocker.
The latter of those has become a massively concerning trait of Saquon Barkley’s over the past year or so. So much so that the New York Giants‘ all-time leading rusher, Tiki Barber, is questioning Barkley’s ability to be an every-down back in this league.
“I will say that Saquon Barkley, he might not be an every-down back.” Barber said of Barkley on the Tiki and Tierney Radio Show following the Giants’ loss to the Steelers in Week 1. “He cannot pass protect, and it is starting to become glaring. It’s probably the only issue he had to deal with coming into the NFL cause’ he wasn’t asked to do it at Penn State. You see him diving on the ground, not sticking his head into people’s chest, it’s gonna be a liability, cause people see it now, it’s on tape, and it’s gonna come out.”
Interestingly enough, while limited in his pass-protection snaps during college, Barkley actually showed well when asked to man the role. His 93% pass-pro execution during his final season with the Nittany Lions tied as the best grade amongst all running backs in the 2018 draft class, per Fantasy Points’ Graham Barfield.
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Tiki on Saquon: ‘He’s Frustrating to Watch’
Barkley began to show his first true cracks in his pass-blocking armor last season, most notably a missed block against the intra-city rival Jets that led to a strip-sack touchdown. The Giants would go on to lose that game by just one score, 34-27. Many chalked his struggles up to a high-ankle sprain. However, his lapses in pass-pro carried over into training camp and now into the regular season.
“If you watch him for the last couple of years he doesn’t want to block…I learned this early on in my career cause I was a third-down back before I was a star running back. If you can’t block, you can’t be on the field on third down, you just can’t, cause you know those are high blitz and dog downs.”
Barkley, who checks in at 6-foot-tall and 230-plus pounds, would seem like the ideal player you’d like to have taking on blitzing linebackers and safeties on passing downs. Yet, while he may have the frame to get the job done, Barber sees a lack of want on Barkley’s end as to why the struggles have continued.
“You gotta go hit a dude. Saquon Barkley’s a big man, he doesn’t wanna hit anybody, it’s frustrating to watch,” Barber said. “I know he’s a great back but he’s frustrating to watch trying to pass protect.”
Barber’s co-host, Brandon Tierney, finished off the segment by praising Barkley’s talents, yet also taking aim at Barkley’s knack for dancing in the backfield. Barber’s response? “He’s a big back who wants to play small.”
Barkley will look to pick things up in Week 2 against a Bears defense who, just two years ago, finished third in the NFL with 50 sacks on the season.
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