It was going to be hard for Saquon Barkley to meet expectations.
Barkley was such an amazing prospect, some thought he should have gone with the first overall pick of this year’s draft, even in this era of running backs being devalued. Instead, he went second overall. Not only that, but he went to the big-market New York Giants, where he’d be in the intense spotlight from Day 1. It’s hard to remember the last time a running back came into the NFL with more hype than Barkley. It’s possible he tops that list.
Barkley has done well for himself. His strong rookie season continues on the “Thursday Night Football” stage as the Giants take on the Philadelphia Eagles, a game that can be livestreamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android).
Barkley hasn’t been perfect through five games, but he has already impressed some NFL veterans.
Eagles DE Michael Bennett has high praise for Saquon Barkley
Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, who is in his 10th NFL season, offered the type of praise for Barkley that you don’t see for many rookies.
“I think he reminds me of a couple running backs,” Bennett said, according to NJ.com. “He has, like, shiftiness and quick feet like Marshawn Lynch and balance like LeSean McCoy. But then he also has speed like Jamaal Charles. He’s really a great combination as a running back.”
Lynch is a borderline Hall of Famer, McCoy might be too and Charles has the highest per-carry average of any running back over the past 60 years. And Bennett says Barkley has the best traits of all three.
“I haven’t seen a running back like that in a long time,” Bennett told NJ.com.
Barkley has made some big plays
Barkley has 308 yards and three touchdowns rushing, and another 274 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 31 catches. Barkley has had some flaws. He hasn’t been all that efficient as a runner or receiver, but a lot of that is due to a mediocre offensive line and stagnant offense.
One of Barkley’s strengths at Penn State was hitting big plays. It’s a lot tougher to do that in the NFL, but Barkley has already proven he can run away from pro defenders too. He had a 68-yard touchdown run against a tough Jacksonville Jaguars defense in his first game. He had a 57-yard touchdown catch from Odell Beckham Jr. last week against the Carolina Panthers, and his 15-yard touchdown reception later in the game gave the Giants a lead with a little more than a minute to go (the Panthers won on a 63-yard field goal as time expired).
Barkley hasn’t been the type of back who can consistently move the chains, like Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys. But he has five 20-yard runs, trailing only San Francisco’s Matt Breida for the league lead. Barkley’s talent is obvious, even among NFL players.
Giants struggling despite Barkley
The Giants haven’t been much better this season, despite adding Barkley’s explosiveness to the offense. They’re 1-4 as they come into Thursday night’s game.
A lot of that has nothing to do with Barkley. Eli Manning has struggled at times (the decision to draft Barkley over Sam Darnold will be dissected forever, of course), the offensive line has its issues still and the offense as a whole hasn’t clicked.
At least Giants fans have something entertaining to watch, despite the team’s slow start. Regardless of how the Giants reshape their roster in the future, Barkley will be at the center of it for a long time.
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