Saquon Barkley spent the second half of last season insisting that he was able to run and cut the way he had for most of his life.
On Monday, for the first time in a somewhat public setting with media allowed at Giants practice for the first time, he was finally able to put some evidence behind his claims. The third-year running back was slicing, darting, spinning and dominating the practice field, looking more like the back the Giants selected with the second overall pick in 2018 than he has since he suffered a high ankle sprain last October.
“It felt good just to be out there in general,” Barkley said after the workout. “We did get some pretty nice running plays going on… It feels good to get out there, get the feel and get some work with the defense and get each other better.”
Barkley was, for lack of a better term, finally himself. But what makes him so special is that for him, that’s not good enough. And as he heads into year three, his goal is to keep growing and improving.
“Obviously, I’m not naïve to the fact that I was blessed with a tremendous talent,” he said. “The way you improve on that is by focusing on little things, focus on the details and listen to your coaches. I think we have a great coaching staff here, from Coach [Joe] Judge all the way down to the position coaches, all the guys. I want to be great and I want to be great for this team. I know that starts with taking coaching and learning from them.”
Judge said that’s what has stood out to him the most as he has gotten to work with Barkley.
“I think the most pleasing thing about Saquon so far is how eager he is to be coached and how he is always looking for a better way of doing something,” Judge said. “I love the way he works on the field. He comes out every day with a purpose and that’s important. You can see what he’s working on specifically not only from our own install standpoint but personally based on what may have happened in a previous practice. Or a technique or fundamental that he has to improve on himself. He has a unique skill set and he is going to give himself an opportunity to maximize that by the way he’s working right now.”
He’s already won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and is the only player in Giants history to top 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons. Now it’s time for the next level.
“You have to try to improve on every year,” Barkley said. “Try to be a better version of yourself, try to improve on your game. It’s the little things that you do in the offseason. It’s the stuff that you focus on. The details in cutting, the details in watching film, of watching other people on film and trying to expand your game. The way I feel I can be a better Saquon Barkley, I guess you could say, is by coming here every single day, coming to work and trying to continue to earn the respect of my teammates. Continuing to try to push myself and push my teammates. At the end of the day, it’s all about the team. That’s the mindset we need to have in order to go out there and have a successful season.”
Having a fully healthy Barkley back on the field will certainly help, too.