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Giants in danger of wasting Saquon Barkley’s prime years

Jesse Reed
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are suddenly a one-man show on offense following the shocking Odell Beckham trade, but that’s not a good thing for Saquon Barkley.

Even looking at what Big Blue was about last season when OBJ was part of the equation, Barkley was oftentimes the first, second and third option both on the ground and through the air. He touched the ball 352 times, carried the ball more than any other back besides Ezekiel Elliott, and was targeted in the pass game 121 times — a number most receivers never see.

Now he’s heading into the 2019 season without much backup whatsoever, playing behind an aging quarterback who has been declining the past few years. Eli Manning is coming back for at least another season, and his $23.2 million cap hit dictates he’ll be starting, regardless of what general manager Dave Gettleman (who was so honest about the Beckham situation, he wrote sarcastically) has said about the veteran.

Remember, last year Manning wasn’t even the best passer on New York’s offense. That honor went to Beckham, who was utilized on trick plays to feed Barkley down the field (like this).

Looking ahead, New York’s offensive lineup looks like this, prior to the draft:

  • Quarterback: Eli Manning
  • Running back: Saquon Barkley (2,028 yards, 15 touchdowns in 2018)
  • Tight end: Evan Engram (45 catches, 577 yards, three touchdowns)
  • Wide receiver: Sterling Shepard (66 catches, 872 yards, four touchdowns)
  • Wide receiver: Corey Coleman (five catches, 71 yards)

That passing lineup isn’t one that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. It’s easy to surmise that Barkley is the best receiver on the Giants roster at this time.

It’s also not hard to surmise that New York’s offensive philosophy in 2019 will be to run Barkley, throw passes to Barkley, and then run him some more.

Essentially, New York is set to run Barkley into the ground, which is absolutely the best way to ruin a young running back’s career if that’s your aim.

Following the Beckham trade, my colleague wrote that the Giants are the worst-run organization in the league. It’s hard to argue against that notion, because the moves he’s made have not made the team better in any way, shape or form.

Heading into the season with an aging quarterback who is immobile in the pocket and playing behind a (still) suspect offensive line, and without any other stars on the roster outside of Barkley, the running back will be the main focus for opposing defenses, week in and week out.

Barkley is good enough that he might actually thrive short term as the main weapon for Big Blue. Yet running backs, who already have the shortest shelf live of any position in the NFL, tend to wear down fast when carrying such a heavy load.