If the first training camp practice of 2022 was any indication of what’s to come, the New York Giants have serious plans to use running back Saquon Barkley a lot more as a receiver this season.
This is a loose development we’ve been tracking since early offseason workouts, but videos and reports emerging from training camp have now confirmed that Barkley is being used heavily as a pass-catcher.
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The first highlight of the day was Barkley making a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone.
Via the Giants’ official Twitter account:
The goal is to get Barkley the ball in space, where his athleticism can take over and he can make more jaw-dropping plays like this. While this catch was on air (no defense), Barkley caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Jones later in practice during an 11-on-11 session.
Here’s video of that touchdown, via Tom Rock of Newsday:
If this were a full-contact live practice, rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux probably would have gotten the sack on Jones. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see Barkley motion out of the backfield and then run a perfect route for a touchdown. Head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka are showing off some early creativity when it comes to Barkley’s usage as a receiver.
Why the Giants Want to Use Barkley as a Receiver
If you need a refresher on what Barkley looks like as a receiver in game action, here are the two receiving touchdowns he scored last season.
Barkley only scored four total touchdowns last season, and half of them came on receptions. He finished the 2021 season with 41 catches for 263 yards.
Those numbers are way down from Barkley’s rookie year, when he caught a ridiculous 91 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns. He ranked 13th among all players (second among running backs) in receptions that season, and that’s a big reason why he was able to lead the entire NFL with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2018.
With Barkley struggling in between the tackles and in pass protection lately, it’s a smart move by Daboll and Kafka to shift the game plan and build more around the things their star running back does well.
Barkley Shows He’s Still a Man of the People
After Wednesday’s training camp practice, Barkley stuck around to sign autographs and take photographs with fans.
Here’s a video clip, via SNY Giants on Twitter:
This is demonstrative of why the Giants are working so hard to unleash Barkley this season. As a former No. 2 overall draft pick and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, he is still the face of the franchise. Now heading into the final year of his rookie contract, time is running out for Barkley to solidify his legacy in New York.
The good news is Daboll has a history of reviving running back careers, after helping Reggie Bush jump start his NFL journey with the Miami Dolphins back in 2011. The Giants are hoping Daboll will have a similar impact on Barkley’s career in 2022.