Moeller: Barkley Ready to Put Finishing Touches on Memorable Rookie Season

Without any weather issues in sight, Saquon Barkley should have a big day.

It will be a sharp contrast at the domed (if necessary) Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon from last Sunday’s wind-and-rain swept mess at Met Life Stadium that resulted in Barkley amassing just 31 rushing yards in his team’s 17-0 loss to Tennessee.

However, Barkley will need to find his holes to lead the Giants (5-9) against a resurgent Indianapolis Colts team (8-6), which is suddenly in the AFC playoff hunt.

If his line can create some crevices for Barkley to juke and jive through the Colts’ defense, the rookie Pro-Bowl selection can be on track to break his season-high of 175 yards rushing against Washington a few week ago.

He truly is the team’s centerpiece this week without defensive  co-captains safety Landon Collins and linebacker Alec Ogletree along with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and center Spencer Pulley out of the lineup.

The Colts shut down and blanked the Dallas Cowboys, 23-0, last week, arguably the hottest offense at the time.

They limited Ezekiel Elliott to 87 yards and Dak Prescott threw for 206 yards with an interception.

Fourteen games into the season and 1,155 yards behind him, Barkley has managed to escape injury physically and mentally.

Barkley is 403 yards away from Eric Dickerson’s record of 2, 212 total yards from scrimmage.

“I guess you can say I’m not happy or not satisfied, but I love the way that I’ve been able to grow as a player,” said Barkley. “I feel like a lot of people will always try to talk about the rookie wall or at this point in the year or you’re going to get banged up here, banged up there.

“Obviously I’ve been able to be very healthy and that’s credit to the people I work with and God, but to be able to grow as a player, understanding the game more and also growing as a leader. That’s probably my favorite part of this year is to be able to learn and be able to grow from the good things I’ve done this year and the mistakes that I’ve made.”

He also has developed into the leader the Giants expect to lead them into the future.

“Yeah, but that’s just the nature of life,” added Barkley.  “You have to prove yourself. Obviously I wanted to take on that role, but I had to prove it to my team that I’m a guy you can follow and I’m a guy that’s willing to lead. The way I did that, that’s what I thought I would say who I am – stay true to who I am, don’t come in here with a cocky attitude or you’re the second pick, you’re this, you’re that.

“That means nothing. Once you get to the organization, you’re just like everybody else and you got to work and prove yourself just like everyone else and that was a mindset that I had and that’s the mindset I’m going to continue to have and hopefully, like I said, it’s not the end.

Barkley will have a showdown against Colts’ rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, who also is highly regarded as a Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, as he is leading all rookies in tackles.

Head coach Pat Shurmur knows the Giants made the right choice with the No. 2 overall pick who will be a special talent and leader for quite some time.

 “I think he’s holding up very well,” said Shurmur about Barkley.  “He’s a very physical guy, who is in very good shape. He’s obviously super talented, and we’re just keeping track and monitoring, and encouraging him to do all the things necessary each week to get ready to go. And he’s done a good job with that.”

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About the Author

Jeff Moeller

Jeff Moeller has been covering the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and college football and basketball as well as high school sports on a national and local scene for the past 39 years. He has been a Jets and Giants beat reporter for the past 13 years.

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