Mike Shula’s first year as offensive coordinator of the New York Giants is going to be made easier by not only having the game’s best wide receiver as well as a two-time Super Bowl MVP, but also a future star in the making at running back.
Saquon Barkley is able to do it all, the Giants’ first-round pick this past April is a potential game-changer out of the backfield. He can run between the tackles, he has elite speed, is physically built to be a feature back and can catch out of the backfield. There is a reason why he is considered the best all-around running back to come out of college in over a decade.
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All the aforementioned attributes will surely help the Giants rushing woes. The team was No. 23 last year in yards per rushing attempt and No. 25 in overall rushing carries.
Simply put, opposing defenses didn’t respect the Giants ability to run the ball. The Giants, in turn, gave them no reason to. This was a team that knew it couldn’t run the ball effectively and didn’t try to.
Shula, who was hired this offseason as part of the staff put together by first-year head coach Pat Shurmur, has a real weapon at his disposal in Barkley.
“The thing that sticks out the most with him is his ability to be a total back. With everything we’ve asked him to do, he just looks really, really good,” Shula said on Monday. “And that’s hard to find in a lot of backs. As we know, in college, he wasn’t just good at all those things, he was really good at all those things. That is kind of what we’re looking for - for him to pick up where he left off.”
Barkley, a notorious workout warrior, has all the attributes of being a future star for the Giants, a team in desperate need of a running back. Now, it is about putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
His successful integration into the offense will boil down to his ability to grasp the playbook and then transition that knowledge to the field. Things such as pass blocking won’t come as naturally to the physical freak of a running back as, say, hurdling a defender or breaking a tackle and getting into the second level.
At this phase of training camp, it is about taking the mistakes, going over them and Shula helping his young running back to learn from these errors.
“Yeah, there’s a lot, probably, with blitz protections, and it might not have been his mistake, it might have been someone else’s where he made sure he wasn’t going to make it again,” Shula said. “It wasn’t really a mental mistake but there was one in OTAs where we were in the red zone and he was coming out to catch the ball and had a chance to catch it and it dropped it and it was an interception. The very next play he came back, it was a similar route, and he caught it and scored a touchdown. So he didn’t let that play affect the rest of practice.”