Saquon Barkley enters Sunday trailing the NFL’s rushing leader by 236 yards. “You never know,” he said with a smile.
Sensing the possibility that he might be creating a controversial headline with the comment, he quickly backtracked. “I’m just kidding,” he said, chuckling, before getting serious. “But honestly, you never know.”
If there is any Giants running back of recent vintage who might be able to accumulate that much yardage, it’s Barkley.
As his rookie season draws to a close on Sunday, he’s already obliterated the franchise record for a first-year player in rushing yardage (1,198) and needs only five catches to break the team’s rookie record for receptions (set by Odell Beckham Jr. with 91 in 2014).
He needs only two catches to break Reggie Bush’s NFL record of 88 receptions by a rookie running back, which was set in 2006. He needs 114 yards from scrimmage to reach 2,000 for the season, something only two rookie running backs have ever accomplished: Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James.
A rushing title, though, that would be something else. Especially with the current league leader, Ezekiel Elliott, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday with Dallas.
Considering the Cowboys have a playoff game the following weekend and are locked into their playoff position, Elliott is unlikely to play in the game, and if he does, it certainly won’t be for long. The finish line might change a bit, but Barkley’s pursuit of it probably won’t.
“From my perspective, he’s a guy I think can go into a game and if he sets his mind and his goals on something, he can get after it,” Giants guard Jamon Brown said. “It’ll definitely be in the back of our minds and definitely something that, us big boys up front, we’ll try to help this guy get it if that’s what he wants.”
But 236? That would be monumental. It would break Tiki Barber’s team record of 234 set against Washington, and come exactly 12 years to the day from when Barber did it.
Most likely, though, Barkley will come up short of Elliott. This time.
“I’m not all about winning rushing titles or me, me, me, but I want to be a great player in this league and I want to go down as one of the best to ever play in this league,” Barkley said.
And the all-timers? They all have at least one rushing crown.
“I believe one day I will accomplish that goal,” he said. “When I envision something, I’m going to go work for it.”
On that subject, there was no you-never-know from Barkley.
NFL Rushing Leaders
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys 1,434
2. Todd Gurley, Rams 1,251
3. Saquon Barkley, Giants 1,198
4. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers 1,080
5. Joe Mixon, Bengals 1,063