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Giants RB Saquon Barkley Makes an Honest Admission

Saquon Barkley has struggled to make plays.

In the last three games, someone on the field for the Giants offense has worn a No. 26 jersey with the surname "Barkley" emblazoned across the back.

But in watching the man who wears that jersey, there is some debate as to whether he is the same Saquon Barkley whom the Giants fell in love with so much so in 2018 to make him the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, or if that's just a shell of that one-time dazzling runner.

It is indeed Saquon Barkley, not a poor knockoff for the record. But in watching Barkley perform out there since returning from a sprained ankle suffered in Week 5, it's pretty clear that Barkley is still not quite himself.

"Nobody feels 100 percent physically," he said when asked if he's 100 percent. "It's week whatever in the NFL."

True, but most NFL running backs who are semi-healthy tend to get stronger as the season goes on. That, unfortunately, has not been the case for Barkley, who finished with 55 yards on 11 carries, and a long of 23 yards, plus six receptions (on nine pass targets) for 19 yards and two dropped balls.

Barkley, who was one of the focal points of the Giants offensive game plan in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins, couldn't deliver, couldn't take the team on his shoulders, and help carry it to victory. 

Instead, he had two dropped passes that might have otherwise extended the drives. He finished with six receptions for 19 yards, most of that coming in garbage time, and he rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries with a long of 23 yards (on an outside zone run).

That's far from being a Barkley-esque performance, but to be fair, the fourth-year running back, who has always been a feast or famine type of runner, has not looked like himself.

In his last two games, he's had runs of 23 and 32 yards. On his 22 other carries, he's managed just 40 yards, a 1.8 yards-per-carry average.

Part of that is thanks to the inept run blocking by the Giants offensive line, and part of that is on the coaches who, in addition to mixing Devontae Booker into the equation, don't always stick with the run.

But Barkley, who when drafted was regarded as a generational talent, hasn't helped his situation with what's become an alarming decline in his production.

When asked to run the ball between the tackles, instead of lowering his shoulder, hitting the hole, and trying to move the pile, he shuffles his feet, seemingly looking for an escape hatch to the outside where he typically has more success with his rushing attempts.

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At other times, Barkley abandons any plan of following his lead blocking because he sees another crease nearby, only to find that crease gone by the time he changes direction.

And this week, it was particularly concerning when the Dolphins defense managed to string Barkley out on a wide run on which he could not turn the corner and head upfield.

Barkley seemed to take umbrage when it was mentioned that there is a growing opinion that he's not the player when was in 2018 when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"That's their opinion," he said of the unnamed members of the court of public opinion. "I know who I am."

Whomever Barkley thinks he is, that player right now hasn't shown up since returning from the sprained ankle he suffered, and it's also contributing to the Giants running game struggles so much so that the coaching staff would instead lean on the pass than the run.

That could be part of the problem. Barkley is historically at his best with 20+ carries per game, yet of late, he's been averaging 11 carries per game, which is not much time to get into a groove.

"I cannot be upset that I've got 11 carries," he said. "We're not doing anything. Myself, I'm not doing anything in the running game," he said. "I'm not affecting the game in that aspect. That kind of happens, especially when you get down and you play from behind."

But the problem is except for two games of note--against the Rams and the Bucs--the Giants have kept it close enough to where abandoning the run prematurely can be viewed as a questionable coaching decision.

But Barkley, who's never been about pointing fingers, remains determined to fight through it and to drag the 2018 version of himself somehow back to the spotlight.

"I guess we're in a slump right now, talking personally, myself," Barkley said. "I could either sit down, cry about it and give up or go back to work and keep working and keep figuring it out.

"I'm going to do the other side of it, go back to work, put my head down and keep working, keep leading and keep trying my best."


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