Saquon Barkley took the handoff on second-and-3 from the Giants’ 32 and made it only a couple of yards through the middle before Jacksonville filled the hole. But the second overall pick in the draft was about to start living up to the advertising.
First he hung a quick right in order to break a tackle. Then he broke another. And then he turned the right corner and began picking up speed. Sterling Shepard threw a block for him and Barkley was gone, racing down the sideline for 68 yards — his first touchdown in his first NFL regular-season game.
“That’s why we drafted that young man,” coach Pat Shurmur said.
The 21-year-old former Penn State star left MetLife Stadium on Sunday with the ball from that fourth-quarter play and 106 yards on 18 carries. But Barkley also left with mixed feelings because he couldn’t run in the two-point conversion and failed to fly far enough on a fourth-down leap, and because the Giants fell, 20-15.
“It was fun to get out there and play my first NFL game,” Barkley said. “It was a dream of mine. But I feel like we left it out there. We could’ve did a little more as a team to finish the game and win the game. But you’ve got to give credit to Jacksonville. They’re a heck of a defense and a heck of a team. We’ve got to continue to grow from this game and get better.”
The Jaguars went up 20-9 with 11:24 left. They had mostly bottled up Barkley, holding him to 37 yards on 16 carries. But then he delivered the Giants’ only TD 45 seconds later.
“It was amazing,” Barkley said. “It was a great feeling. But it was something that came and [went]. One touchdown is not going to win the game.”
Guard Patrick Omameh wasn’t surprised by the sudden distance run.
“The boy’s got grit,” Omameh said. “I think everybody knew that. I’m glad he had a chance to show a little taste of that. But with him, I’m sure there’s more to come.”
Calais Campbell thinks so. The Jacksonville defensive end came away with a souvenir.
“I traded jerseys with him after the game,” Campbell said, “because I was like, ‘OK, if he can stay healthy, he might one day be a Hall of Famer.’ ”
Barkley also made two catches for 22 yards, gaining 18 on a short third-and-5 pass. But he came away wondering what he could have done differently on a third-quarter play with the Giants down 13-9. They had fourth-and-2 at the Jacksonville 38. Barkley took the ball on a flight over the pile but landed a bit short.
“I jumped,” he said. “I thought I had it. I thought I did enough to keep the sticks moving. But I didn’t. That’s something where no excuses where I’m a young player. I’ve got to realize how important that is.”
Saquon Barkley’s NFL debut improved from pedestrian to encouraging with his 68-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. His overall numbers: