Saquon Barkley has never had a 100-yard rushing game with Daniel Jones as his quarterback.
There are obviously other factors behind Barkley’s stretch of ineffectiveness than the person handing him the football. He’s spent much of Jones’ tenure as the quarterback dealing with his own high ankle sprain, missing three-and-a-half games and then needing a few more to start feeling like himself. And the offensive line hasn’t always been friendly to him with their work up front. But the fact of the matter is that — and this is with a big "so far" — Jones and Barkley have yet to be the dynamic backfield pairing that the Giants envisioned when they selected them second and sixth overall in the last two drafts.
Which is why Barkley may be the Giant who most benefits from this brief return of Eli Manning to the starting lineup.
Barkley is still convinced that Jones will be a “great” quarterback and he knows that his future with the Giants will be tied to No. 8. But the running back seemed fairly excited about having the 38-year-old, 16-year veteran likely calling the plays — and perhaps most importantl making the checks and pre-snap adjustments — Monday night against the Eagles.
“Eli, he’s a legend, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Barkley said. “He just sees the field so well. He understands the game so well. He’s been doing it for a very long time . . . He’s seen every defense, so it’s like second-hand to him. He’ll be able to put us in position to succeed.
“I don’t think it just helps me,” Barkley added. “It helps the team, the offense.”
Barkley's over-the-top optimism about any move the Giants make could come off as a slight to Jones. Which is why he was careful not to take sides in any Manning-Jones debate.
“I’m not here to compare and contrast quarterbacks, Eli versus D.J.,” Barkley said. “They’re two different styled quarterbacks. One’s been doing it for a very long time, one is in his first year.”
The Giants say that Jones, despite his relative inexperience, does a very good job of getting the team into the right plays at the right time. He has latitude to do so at the line of scrimmage, just as Manning did (and does).
“D.J. has been doing a great job of that too,” Barkley said.
Right now, though, Manning probably does it better.
There are certainly tradeoffs to that.
“I don’t expect him to be out there running like Daniel Jones,” Barkley said of Manning. “I don’t know of any quarterback in year 15 or 16 who can do that right now.”
The Giants will also likely give up a little of their downfield explosiveness with Manning at quarterback, but that could also benefit Barkley as one of Manning’s trusted checkdown targets. The Giants have said in the past that Barkley’s somewhat diminished role in the passing game stems, in part, from Jones looking downfield more often.
Barkley had two of the best rushing games of his career against the Eagles last year, rolling for 231 total yards and two touchdowns of 50 yards or more. He said wistfully on Thursday that he was “in a groove” in those games, the first one in particular when he had a career-high 229 yards from scrimmage.
Barkley went back and watched those games this week, trying to capture whatever mojo he brought to the field against the Eagles. He did not want to promise similar success this time around against the division rival.
“It’s a new year,” he said.
But with the old quarterback, though. And that might just be one of Barkley’s keys to recapturing the form that has eluded him most of this season.