Tiki Barber: Saquon Barkley's Pass Protection a Liability
Add former Giants running back and current CBS Sports host Tiki Barber, the holder of nearly every Giants franchise record, to the list of people who, after watching current Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s performance against the Steelers Monday night, didn’t like what he saw.
On his radio program Tiki & Tierney with Brandon Tierney, Barber was particularly critical of Barkley as a pass protector, even going so far as to suggest that because of that “blaring issue,” Barkley cannot be considered as an every-down back.
"Saquon Barkley, he might not be an every-down back, he can not pass protect," Barber said. "It's probably the only issue he had to deal with coming into the NFL because he wasn't asked to do it at Penn State.
"You see him diving on the ground, not sticking his head into people's chest. It's going to be a liability because people see it now, it's on tape and it's going to come out."
Barkley was indeed used as a pass protector at Penn State, tying with the Patriots’ Sony Michel, as the top-rated running backs in pass protection in the 2018 draft class, according to Fantasy Points’ Graham Barfield.
But Barber’s criticism of Barkley since he hit the NFL is undoubtedly warranted and, perhaps to a growing degree, concerning for the Giants.
According to Pro Football Focus, as a rookie in 2018, Barkley allowed eight total pressures in pass protection with three sacks. Those numbers were identical in 2019, even with three fewer games played after suffering an ankle injury in Week 3.
Last year, Barkley famously whiffed against then-Jets safety Jamal Adams, who hit quarterback Daniel Jones and returned a strip-sack for a score.
More recently, in Monday night’s game, Barkley looked uncertain on another blitz protection, whiffing on his man who crashed into Daniel Jones.
Barkley's struggles in pass protection seemingly coincide with his struggles running the ball consistently.
In games where Barkley rushed for over 100 yards, he's also only allowed two of his 17 total career pressures.
Barkley could not reach the 100-yard threshold in games, he has given up 15 of his 17 total career pressures, per PFF. This equates to an average of 0.18 pressures allowed when Barkley rushes for over 100 yards.
Regardless if there’s a correlation, Barkley, who aspires to be an elite NFL running back, needs to fix that part of his game if he’s to reach his lofty goals.
However, Barber seemed to question Barkley’s “want to” when it comes to pass protection.
“If you’ve watched him for the last couple of years, he doesn’t want to block,” Barber said.
“I learned this early on in my career, because I was a third-down back before I was a star running back: if you can’t block, you can’t be on the field on third down. You just can’t, because you know those are high blitz and dog downs.”
“Saquon Barkley’s a big man. He doesn’t want to hit anybody,” Barber added. “That is frustrating to watch.”