The length of Saquon Barkley's career matters deeply to the Giants. It means even more to general manager Dave Gettleman specifically.
When Gettleman drafted Barkley with the second-overall pick in 2018, the selection was about more than just getting the best player available. Gettleman famously stated that he would need to envision a player putting on a gold jacket to be worth drafting that high.
Gettleman envisioned that Barkley, with his talent level, was certainly capable of having a Hall-of-Fame career for the Giants. But Gettleman's vision can only come to fruition if Barkley defies the shortening career lengths of NFL running backs.
According to a study done in September 2019, the average career length of a running back is only 2.57 years, the lowest of any NFL position.
Barkley is entering year three, is already ahead of the game, and would like to stay there.
That might have been why Gettleman signed 29-year-old running back Dion Lewis this offseason to a one-year $1.5 million deal. Lewis has already managed to stay in the NFL for a longer-than-average span for his position as he approaches his ninth season.
As a former fifth-round draft pick in 2011, Lewis has achieved this career length without the elite talent or physical attributes that Barkley possesses.
"[Barkley] definitely respects the fact that I'm a veteran and I've been around a long time," Lewis said during a video press conference. He's asking questions about what he thinks he can do better, just seeing how I've stayed around long and just trying to pick up some of the habits I have.
"I don’t look at myself as losing a step. I work really hard in the offseason and try to keep up with the young guys."
Lewis' habits have helped his body hold up through conditions his position endures. If Barkley can replicate those habits, he could stay productive for the Giants well into his 30s, as running backs like Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, and LeSean McCoy have.
However, the exchange of knowledge between Barkley and Lewis is not one-sided.
"[Barkley] can teach me a lot," Lewis said. "How he sees certain run reads and just try to incorporate that into my game. Obviously I'm not the player he is but just picking his brain and seeing what he sees on certain plays and he does the same with me."
Lewis is set to see plenty of opportunities to apply Barkley's input on the field in 2020. While Barkley will see the lion share of the rushes, new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett should be wary of overusing Barkley in his third year, especially since Barkley is coming off an ankle injury.
Lewis, who excels in pass pro, an area not considered a Barkley strength, has plenty left in the tank to give Barkley some relief as the Giants' reserve running back.
If Lewis can apply Barkley's knowledge on reads and running style, that exchange could help extend both of their careers while ensuring the Giants' rushing offense stays productive.
Lewis would give Barkley time snaps off to physically regroup on the sideline without being overworked. Meanwhile, Barkley's advice can help Lewis adjust his game to make the most of his carries, and prove he still has plenty left in the tank to play beyond 2020.
"We’re trying to make each other better," Lewis said. "At the same time, competing. Building that camaraderie in the group. We know it’s going to take all of us to help the team win during the season. Definitely like what we have."