Craig Johnson thinks Saquon Barkley can do it again.
Or at least the Giants running back coach implied that much Tuesday, when he said that he has “high expectations” that Barkley can match or eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Barkley had 2,028 yards last season.
“I tell the players, go for the mountains,” Johnson said. “Go for it and then show that you can do it. I want players to reach as high as they can.”
But Johnson also highlighted that neither the team, nor Barkley, are interested in individual stats. That said, a 2,000-yard running back generally spells a playoff contender, and with Odell Beckham Jr. gone, a bulk of the offensive load will fall to the Giants second-year back.
And as far as Johnson is concerned, Barkley has actually improved from last year.
“I think the single biggest difference is that he now has been through the year,” Johnson said. “He understands the grind, what’s going to happen in the season. He understands more how defenses are going to attack him and one of the big things he wanted to do is continue to improve his knowledge of defense, so this is how, if a team is playing me this [way], this is probably going to be our answer. This is what I have to practice that week.”
Johnson called Barkley a “relentless film studier,” and said he’s learning to tailor his attack week by week — a pivotal component in a season in which he’ll be a primary target for opposing defenses.
“That’s just part of the game,” Johnson said. “You deal with that. Being the target of a defense. If you have a really good season prior the defenses are geared and they’re tremendous in the NFL and they’re going to try to take away what you do best, so that’s what we’re going to try to work on to keep expanding him, as with all the backs.”
Notes & quotes: Daniel Jones threw his first interception of training camp, a ball nicely picked off by a leaping Corey Ballentine in the end zone. Ballantine celebrated by sprinting out the door of the training facility’s indoor field, ball in tow…Offensive tackle Brian Mihalik left practice with an apparent injury…Cornerback Sam Beal returned to the field after missing time last week with a hamstring injury.