Saquon Barkley isn't used to looking up on the stat sheet. He’s certainly not used to seeing a quarterback there when he does.
But that’s where he and the Giants find themselves when it comes to their rushing game after two games. Barkley has 83 yards; Daniel Jones has 122.
"As a competitor, obviously you want to be leading the team in rushing and leading the league in rushing," Barkley said on Thursday. "But at the end of the day you want to win games . . . I look at it as that’s going to help me."
It probably will. The more times Jones keeps a read option to himself and darts down the field, the more opposing defenses will have to honor that aspect of his game.
"There are going to be times where teams are not going to just continue to let him pull and take it for 60 or 80-yard runs, which he showed he can do," Barkley said. "There’s going to be times when that defensive end is going to have to sit and play DJ too, and that’s when I get my opportunity to make things shake."
Jones certainly has become a dangerous runner, perhaps even more than Barkley is at this point in the running back’s return from ACL surgery. Jones is averaging 8.1 yards a carry, the NFL’s second-highest total among all players with at least 10 carries. Last Thursday in Washington Jones led all players on the field with 95 rushing yards on nine carries, including a game-long 46-yarder. It was the highest single-game rushing total for a Giants quarterback in the Super Bowl era with Jones breaking his own record of 92 set last year in Philadelphia. In both of those games Jones had a chance to become the team’s first quarterback with 100 rushing yards; he fell down in the open field in the Eagles game and had a 58-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty and brought back as the 46-yarder.
"You want that to be a part of what you do, and he’s done a really good job of that here the last couple of years with us," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said of Jones’ running chops. "That’s certainly going to be a part of what we do going forward. I don’t think we’re going to turn into a triple-option team. I don’t think that’s it. I think one of the best things that he does is he has an ability to throw the ball from the pocket, throw the ball on the move and then run the ball different ways. So, that’s certainly an asset to our team."
As for Barkley, he’s slowly getting back to that kind of production. On Thursday he snapped off a 41-yard carry.
He did very little else, though. His 12 other carries yielded only 16 rushing yards.
Perhaps the best illustration of where Barkley is as a weapon now came at the end of the game after the Giants intercepted Washington and had the ball at the 20 with just over two minutes to play. They were criticized for being too conservative and running on the first two snaps of that drive. It wasn’t long ago that giving the ball to Barkley would not have been considered conservative and a coach might have been vilified for not utilizing the team’s best player.
"Saquon’s a really good player," Garrett said. "I think we all know that. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. He’s someone we certainly want to get the ball to in any situation. Early in the game, late in the game, we want to hand it to him. We want to throw it to him. He’ll keep getting better and better as the season goes on."
Maybe soon even better enough to lead the team in rushing.