The NFL Network crew was at Lincoln Center last week in honor of the League’s 100th season, which opens Thursday with the Bears and Packers in Chicago. This Kickoff hosted executives and former players while also having an appearance from Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley, projected to be the Giants primary ball carrier this season, sat in on a panel with NFL Hall of Famers discussing what it is like playing running back in the NFL.
Former Denver Bronco great Terrel Davis asked who Barkley thought was the best running back in the NFL and his response was quick. “I think it’s me!” Entering his second season, the 2018 Rookie of the Year rushed for over 1300 yards.
The Hall of Famer Davis was asked about what he thinks Barkley can do this year especially with all the focus being on the quarterback situation in New York. He explained, “Saquon has to worry about himself. He’s smart enough, he’s mature enough, that I think he’s not going to worry about it.” Davis himself is the all-time leading rusher for the Broncos and played seven years in the NFL (1995-2001).
Steve Smith Sr., former Carolina Panthers wide receiver, was asked if not knowing which quarterback–Eli Manning or Daniel Jones–is starting affects you as a receiver. Smith replied, “No, it won’t because you have to run your route. Whether that quarterback throws a good pass or bad pass you still have to run your route.”
The Giants have veteran slot receiver Golden Tate who is going to be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s PEDs policy. They also have Sterling Shepard who had over 870 receiving yards as well as players like Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer and TJ Jones on the Roster. The Giants are without their former star player Odell Beckham Jr., traded to the Cleveland Browns this offseason.
The big storyline for the Giants all season will likely be their quarterback position and who will be the starter each week. The team has said it will ride with Eli until something goes wrong or they fall out of playoff contention. That being said, no one is really certain just how short that leash is. In 2004, the Giants brought in a young Manning to compete for the starting job against Kurt Warner. In 2019, the Giants drafted Jones with the sixth overall pick while still having veteran Manning on the roster.
Knowing exactly what Eli is going through, NFL champion Warner said it is one of the hardest things to deal with while playing. He added, “When a team brings in a young guy and drafts him that high you know they’re waiting for an opportunity to put him in [Jones] and move forward. You have a couple bad games and your always looking over your shoulder and you never want it to affect the way you play. To be able to keep your same mindset even when you have a bad play or game and when the fans start chanting to bring in the other guy it is a really hard thing to deal with.”
Eli is coming in on his 16th season where he has won two Super Bowls and at times has also led the league in turnovers. Warner spoke about Eli’s ability to handle pressure, saying, “One of the things that has always made Eli great is that he never lets the noise bother him.”
The Giants have high expectations for their ground game to grow. The passing can use work, but with Tate being a veteran and having the young guys Engram and Shepard learning from him this passing game can turn into something special. The only thing in this offense’s way is confusion at the most important position on the field.