With three games left in the season, Saquon Barkley realizes it is his season to control.
There is no Daniel Jones and no Sterling Shepard and a patchwork offensive line in front of him. There hasn’t been a second-half surge as expected. There also hasn’t been a defense that can give him a few extra breathers.
His 4-9 Giants will take to Lincoln Financial Field Sunday afternoon to face an upbeat 6-7 Eagles’ squad that still has playoff hopes and has been listed as a 10-point favorite.
He can read the writing on the wall that his Giants’ future could be in jeopardy as trade rumors have begun to surface. Barkley’s presumed Hall of Fame path has hit a detour.
Has Barkley been reduced to a three-yard-a-carry back, or is the offensive line that has slowed his progress?
Or does he need a change of scenery? Barkley wants to work close to his Whitehall, Pa. home, and Buffalo is a few more hours away than the Meadowlands.
For the final three games, however, it has come down to him.
“The only thing that really matters is my thought process, you know what I mean?” said Barkley Thursday after practice. “I got to go out there and control what I can control. I say football is a 11-man sport. It’s the greatest team sport in the world, but I got to go out there and control what I can control.”
That hasn’t been easy.
Barkley has 115 carries for 429 yards and two touchdowns. He has also caught 37 passes for 248 yards and two TDs.
Over the past three years, injuries have derailed his projected career after his rookie season of 1,307 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns. He also caught 91 passes for 721 yards and added four more touchdowns.
The Giants’ running game was finally set, and it all was in Barkley’s hands.
Barkley missed three games with an ankle sprain the following season, but he did manage to break the 1,000-yard mark (1,003) and caught 52 passes for 438 yards.
Then came his torn ACL last year, and that’s where we are now.
The Barkley to Buffalo rumors gained some spark this week, as the Bills lack an identity in the backfield. If the Giants can get a No. 1 or a No. 1 and No. 3 in a package, they would likely take it.
It likely is a high price considering Barkley’s lack of explosiveness to hit the line. Barkley can still be an effective weapon swinging out of the backfield to catch passes, and maybe his future is as a wide receiver/kick returner.
Who knows? Maybe a better line can flip the scene.
Barkley is scheduled to make $7.2 million next season in his final year of his rookie contract. The Giants soon will be looking down the gun barrel to decide whether or not to give Barkley the big pay day or send him packing. They also will need to soon make the same choice with Jones.
Until then, Barkley is playing out the string.
“Basically, I just want to finish the season with a high note, get better each week, keep continuing to go back, watch what I could learn from and improve my game,” added Barkley.
If he does, it will make his Giants’ future even more interesting.