"You’ve just got to suck it up and fight through it."
Giants running back Saquon Barkley reminded reporters that it’s Week10 of the NFL season and that anyone who has taken a snap since Week 1 probably isn’t feeling 100 percent.
“I feel like how I’m supposed to feel right now,” he said Thursday. “Everyone’s a little banged up, everyone’s a little sore.”
While Barkley is correct, unlike last year, he’s trying to fight through the aftermath of a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss three games.
Since his return in Week 7 against Arizona, Barkley hasn’t always looked like the player he was last year when he steamrolled his way to the Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
It’s not fair to compare Barkley’s stats this year to what he posted last year given the three-game absence, but one look at the second-year running back is enough to see that he’s still not close to being right in terms of his health beyond the usual bumps and bruises.
Barkley has, at times, lacked explosion and the ability to cut on a dime. Then there are those plays in which once he gets out into the open field, he doesn’t always show that elusiveness as he did last year.
Another area in which he’s struggled is in pass blocking. Although pass protection isn’t necessarily Barkley’s primary job, it is still part of a running back’s job description. According to Pro Football Focus, Barkley has allowed four total pressures in pass protection in seven games played, half of the eight he allowed last year in 16 games played.
Barkley isn’t about to make excuses though for his performance, which has also seen him revert to some old college habits such as dancing to the hole and not showing the patience he did last year in letting his running plays develop.
“I don’t think he’s hit his stride yet,” said offensive coordinator Mike Shula when asked what he’s seen from Barkley since he’s returned. “He’s had some really good runs where there hasn’t been a lot there, and there have been some other times where I think he would probably say, ‘I could do a better job, because the line did a good job, I have to do a better job here, there.’”
Barkley agreed. “Just got to be better. Even if I ran for 200 yards, I’m always going to say there’s somewhere you could be better,” Barkley said. “You’ve got to find a way to be better. I could be more efficient in the run, better in the pass game, better all around.”
With the Giants likely to be without receiving Sterling Shepard for a while and without tight end Evan Engram at least for this week, Barkley has an opportunity to step up and contribute toward filling those gaps, assuming the coaches can find ways to get him the ball.
“Yeah, we feel like we’ve got some ways to get him the ball now, whether or not it’s checking the ball down to him on certain plays or getting him out wide, or even splitting him out wide at times,” Shula said. “We’ve done some things. Could we do more? Yeah, potentially. But we want to do it within the framework of what we do and do things that he’s comfortable with doing and (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) is as well.
If an increase in his touches is indeed in the cards, Barkley, who this year is averaging 4.7 yards per reception which is down from his average of 6.9 yards per catch last year, intends to make the most of the opportunities and not think about any discomfort his ailing ankle might be causing.
“You’ve just got to suck it up and fight through it,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to fight through what I’ve been going through, and just try to get better and try to help my team win.”