Saquon Barkley doesn’t think he will rush for 1,000 yards this season.
Oh, sure, he figures to reach the statistical milestone. After 125 yards against the Bears last week, he is just 46 yards shy. There’s a pretty good chance he accomplishes that on Sunday against the Redskins.
What he doesn’t buy into is that "he" will do it.
“When you get 1,000 yards, it’s not just yourself getting 1,000 yards,” Barkley said this week. “It’s your team getting 1,000 yards, the offense, and especially the offensive line.’’
Which is why Barkley wants to cross the four-digit threshold in his rookie season not for his own satisfaction, but as a sort of thank you gift for his blockers.
“I know we’re pretty close to it and that just speaks volumes to the offensive line,” he said. “Definitely want to get that for those guys.”
Those guys have helped Barkley rush for over 100 yards in each of the past three games. In the nine games prior to that, he’d done it just twice. It’s pretty clear to the naked eye that the Giants’ offensive line has improved since the bye week. They have settled in as a cohesive group after spending the first half of the season grappling with injuries and benchings. The addition of Jamon Brown, acquired off waivers and inserted at right guard, seems to have been a key piece to the puzzle.
“You definitely do sense it being different,” Barkley said. “Just because of injuries and people moving and replacing here and replacing here. Now we got a solidified five… [The rushing yardage] speaks volumes on their part and the way they’ve been playing and the confidence they’re having as they continue to grow through every game we’re playing this year.”
So what does blocking for a 1,000-yard running back mean to an offensive lineman?
“It’s very exciting for us,” said fellow rookie Will Hernandez, who has played every snap of the season at left guard. “Our job is to make these guys the best possible and let them make the most out of their careers, you know? That’s our only job, to make sure these guys are successful. When they do well, when they do things like this, we’re happy for them and we’re proud of them.”
It's just a number, though, no different really than 999 or 1,001. It used to be the barometer for great NFL seasons in terms of running backs and yardage, but that’s hardly the case anymore. To reach 1,000 in a 16-game season a back only has to average 62.5 yards per week. Big deal.
What it has become is the line of reckoning for a back – and yes, Saquon, for his offensive line – that divides good seasons from not-so-good ones. Barkley and the Giants definitely want to be on the good side of that line.
“We’re just going to keep blocking for him,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully we end up talking about how he’s breaking records and getting all these yards… We don’t focus on the numbers at all.”
Barkley already has done that. Last week when he reached 954 rushing yards he broke the franchise record for a rookie that had stood since 1936 when Hall of Famer Tuffy Leemans ran for 830. He is the first Giants rookie with three consecutive 100-yard games. His five 100-yard games this season are the most since Brandon Jacobs had the same number in 2007.
He does more than just run the ball, too. Barkley has 74 receptions, which means he needs 15 in the final four games to break the NFL record for catches by a rookie running back (88) set by Reggie Bush in 2006. Plenty of rookies have had 11 games with 100 or more yards from scrimmage, but Barkley is the first player in NFL history to hit that total in 11 of his first 12 career games. The NFL rookie record for games with at least 100 scrimmage yards is 13 by Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1983. Barkley has a chance to do it 15 times.
“I think he’s had a positive impact on our team,” Pat Shurmur said. “I said it early and I really believe it, he’s got a generational spirit in terms of how he competes and I have not been, we have not been disappointed in any way. He’s extremely talented running the ball, catching the ball, he blocks well. We’re doing what we can to give him the football so he has an impact on the game, and I think he has.”
The Giants haven’t had a 1,000-yard runner since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. Barkley is poised to become the next.
But it’s what happens after that first 1,000 that has everyone with the Giants really excited.
Giants’ 1,000-yard Club
Nine Giants players rushed for 1,000 yards or more in a season 23 times:
Yards Player Year G Yds/G Rush TD
1,860 Tiki Barber 2005 16 116.3 9
1,662 Tiki Barber 2006 16 103.9 5
1,518 Tiki Barber 2004 16 94.9 13
1,516 Joe Morris 1986 15 101.1 14
1,387 Tiki Barber 2002 16 86.7 11
1,336 Joe Morris 1985 16 83.5 21
1,235 Ahmad Bradshaw 2010 16 77.2 8
1,216 Tiki Barber 2003 16 76.0 2
1,182 Rodney Hampton 1995 16 73.9 10
1,182 Ron Johnson 1972 14 84.4 9
1,141 Rodney Hampton 1992 16 71.3 14
1,089 Brandon Jacobs 2008 13 83.8 15
1,083 Joe Morris 1988 16 67.7 5
1,077 Rodney Hampton 1993 12 89.8 5
1,075 Rodney Hampton 1994 14 76.8 6
1,063 Gary Brown 1998 16 66.4 5
1,059 Rodney Hampton 1991 14 75.6 10
1,027 Ron Johnson 1970 14 73.4 8
1,025 Derrick Ward 2008 16 64.1 2
1,023 Ottis Anderson 1989 16 63.9 14
1,015 Ahmad Bradshaw 2012 14 72.5 6
1,009 Brandon Jacobs 2007 11 91.7 4
1,006 Tiki Barber 2000 16 62.9 8
Yards Player, Team Yds/G Rush TD
1,175 Todd Gurley, Rams 97.9 15
1,150 Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys 95.8 6
954 Saquon Barkley, Giants 79.5 8
937 Phillip Lindsay, Broncos 78.1 8
909 James Conner, Steelers 75.8 12