If Giants want old Saquon Barkley to return, they should shut him down now

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Saquon Barkley pulls at chinstrap frustration Cowboys
Saquon Barkley pulls at chinstrap frustration Cowboys

We’ve seen what Saquon Barkley can do when he’s healthy, but it’s pretty clear that he isn’t.

With just two games left in the season, and Barkley not being able to show he can be his old self this year, the Giants should consider shutting him down.

Of course, Barkley's competitive spirit immediately shut that down when reporters asked that very question, responding "no" right away.

He was rushed back from his ACL injury, and his limited workload earlier this season seems to prove that.

Barkley certified himself as a workhorse from Day 1, where he had 18 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown (that went for 68 yards) against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that had just carried Blake Bortles to an AFC Championship game nine months prior. In his first 29 games, he had less than 18 touches just three times. One of those games was when he sprained his ankle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Daniel Jones’ first NFL start in 2019 – he had 12 touches when he left the game in the first half.

However, he had less than 18 touches in three of his first four games this season.

And just as it looked like he was getting over that brutal injury, he had a freak accident where he rolled his ankle on a Dallas Cowboy’s foot. That ankle sprain forced him to miss four more games.

He had 12 touches in his return from that injury and is averaging 17.6 touches in his last five games. It’s clear the Giants are still limiting him.

There could be more reasons why Barkley isn’t a workhorse anymore (more on that soon), but one thing that’s been evident all year: The home run swing is just not there. And without his long runs, he’s not good enough.

Sure, he broke off a 41-yard run against the Washington Football Team in Week 2, and he had a 54-yard receiving touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in Week 4. But he has just eight rushes that went at least 10 yards this season.

It’s not a coincidence that he’s putting up poor numbers in the same season where the breakout run hasn’t been a constant week in and week out.

Is it because his offensive line stinks? Well, it can’t be all that.

The line was bad in 2018 and 2019, too. That didn’t stop him from leading the NFL in scrimmage yards, rushes for at least 20 yards, and 40-plus yard carries in his rookie season.

He also had eight carries of 20-plus yards in 2019, and three that went at least 40 yards.

So no, we can’t point to just the offensive line. Especially when his “backup," Devontae Booker, is outplaying the former No. 2 overall pick behind that same offensive line.

Barkley has 705 scrimmage yards on 168 touches this year – Booker has 789 on 155.

But we have to look at Barkley’s first two seasons and remember that this isn’t what he is.

Barkley is a generational talent… when he’s healthy. He’s performed at an elite level behind bad offensive lines before. He didn’t win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and score 23 touchdowns in his first 29 games by accident.

All the evidence just points to what Barkley, and the Giants, won’t admit – he’s not all there with his health.

The Giants are out of playoff contention, and Barkley has shown nothing this year to tell us he’s going to get his home run swing back. And even if he does in these last two games, it will ultimately be worthless in what should be a forgotten season.

What’s more important? Ensuring Barkley’s health, or further risking more injury and hoping he may play well in meaningless games where the offense has shown zero promise?

This season was probably the worst the Giants have ever had: Expectations not even close to met, more questions than answers on quarterback and head coach (and if we have answers, they’re bad), and seemingly no signs of getting better.

And when they were supposed to get their biggest weapon back, he was a shell of himself.

But the Giants never gave Barkley a chance to be his old self. They forced themselves into Barkley’s lack of production. They can get a head start on making Barkley a top running back again.

Shut him down, and make sure he is a full go for 2022.