This past offseason, Saquon Barkley drew inspiration from the great Bo Jackson, donning a “Saquon knows comebacks” t-shirt during preparation for the 2021 season — which is good because he’s had to make a handful of them over his four-year NFL career. The New York Giants running back toted the rock just six times vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his most recent return to the lineup. He followed up that performance with an all too familiar mediocre stat line, rushing for 40 yards on 13 attempts with zero touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12.
“Saquon Barkley clocked in at his typical 3.1 yards per carry. He says he’s still hurt. I say he’ll always be hurt,” wrote The Athletic’s Michael SalfinoIt’s over for Barkley, who the Giants have already guaranteed a contract next year, but it’s only $7.3 million because the highest RB salaries are so low. RBs are worthless to every team in the NFC except the Giants and Cowboys. It’s hilarious.”
If it’s truly over for Barkley, specifically in East Rutherford, and if running backs are as worthless as Salfino paints them to be, which team would be willing to bite on a potential trade for a player who hasn’t firmly looked like his blue-chip self since 2018? According to long-time NFL analyst Bruce Nolan, we may be able to throw the Buffalo Bills into that mix. The host of “The Bruce Exclusive” podcast, Nolan envisions an offseason movement in hopes of luring Barkley to Buffalo.
“I predict there will be at least a small movement within #BillsMafia to trade for Saquon Barkley this offseason,” Nolan tweeted.
Bills Backfield Lacking Identity?
Headed by MVP candidate Josh Allen, the Bills boast one of the league’s most vaunted offenses, averaging the second-most points (29.6) and fifth-most yards (389.3) in football this season. Stefon Diggs is as elite as they come from the receiver position, Cole Beasley remains a highly productive target from the slot and Dawson Knox is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions by a tight end with seven. However, if they’re lacking in any department it would be in the running game.
Without a bonafide lead option in the backfield, the running back pecking order has been a turnstile. Devin Singletary leads the team in rushing with 459 yards. Yet, he’s begun to cede touches to Matt Breida over the past few weeks, as the latter has totaled three touchdowns over his last three games. Speaking of finding the endzone, second-year pro Zack Moss paces the team with four rushing touchdowns this season. However, due to Breida’s bump in usage, Moss most recently found himself as a healthy-scratch in Buffalo’s Thanksgiving day victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Allen currently ranks second on the team in both rushing yards (383) and rushing touchdowns (three).
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Giants Still Believe in Barkley — Will a New GM?
The first pick of the Dave Gettleman era, the Giants’ decision to use the No. 2 overall pick on Barkley has been long scrutinized. On one hand, the former Penn State star is the fastest player in franchise history to reach 4,000 scrimmage yards (39 games). On the other hand, he’s missed 21 games over the past three seasons and has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry over his last nine games.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on November 28 that Gettleman is unlikely to return to the helm in 2022, meaning there’s likely to be a new general manager in place next season. With no connection to Barkley and the running back’s draft stature, will a newly-hired GM be as understanding for Barkley’s limited production and inability to help produce wins? That’s yet to be determined. However, as of now, Barkley still has his fair share of believers within the Giants building, including head coach Joe Judge.
“I see Saquon doing a lot of things and he looks like an explosive athlete. I’m pleased with the way he’s working and preparing and getting ready for the games,” Judge said on November 29.
“I’m really proud of the way he’s being a leader on the team. For a guy like Saquon, you’ve got to find a lot of ways to get him the ball. For a running back, obviously, naturally you want to hand the ball off to him as much as you can, but also with a guy like him it includes being used in the passing game and also how he can be used in different elements of the game, being an effective blocker, things he does when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands,” Judge added. “His overall contribution to the team will be significant and that’s obviously a big focal point in terms of getting him involved in the game and letting him get the ball as many times as he can to make an impact.”