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Saquon Barkley wants 1,000 rushing yards as a nod to Giants' offensive line

Giants running back Saquon Barkley against Tampa Bay

Giants running back Saquon Barkley against Tampa Bay at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 18, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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  

2018 NFL Rushing leaders (through Week 13)

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

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