At first glance, Saquon Barkley has been a significant part of the Giants’ passing game, with a team-high 40 receptions.
But the Giants have yet to fully unleash the pass-catching impact he displayed in his first two NFL seasons, 2018 and ’19. In those years, Barkley totaled 143 receptions for 1,159 yards — an average of 8.1 yards per catch — and six touchdowns.
In 2022, he has 40 catches for 241 yards — an average of 6.0 per catch — and no touchdowns, with 41 of those yards coming on one reception.
During the Giants’ current 1-3-1 slide, Barkley’s receiving totals have been 9, 8, 13, 13 and 18 yards.
Of course, his primary job is running with the ball, and he already has rushed for 1,055 yards, the second-highest total of his career.
But the Giants' offense relies so heavily on Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones that it needs Barkley to catch and Jones to run in addition to needing Barkley to run and Jones to pass.
Asked after practice on Thursday about his receiving skills, Barkley said, “I think I’ve showed that in my career, the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
“But every season, every week, is a new challenge. You have to show something different.”
Barkley said so far this season the focus has been more on him running between the tackles and carrying a heavy workload in that area rather than in the passing game.
But, he added, “As the season goes on, could that probably be in the near future? You never know. But whatever they ask me to do, I’ll go out there, practice to my best ability, then when the play is called try to make the play for the team.”
Barkley said he has faith in coach Brian Daboll and coordinator Mike Kafka to “find creative ways to not only get myself the ball but put our offense in a spot to be successful.”
Said Kafka, “Each week, we talk about those things and how we can get him in the most ideal, premier look. It probably hasn’t shown up as much as we’d like it to. Those things present themselves each and every week and that’s what we look for as a staff — how we can get those things done over and over and over again.”
The Giants will need all of their limited weapons to excel on Sunday against the Eagles, who rank second in the NFL in total defense.
“They’re 11-1 for a reason,” Barkley said. “All phases of the ball — especially on defense — every single level, they’re talented with Pro Bowl-caliber players, to be honest.”
Barkley turned up on the injury report on Thursday with a neck problem and was listed as a limited participant.
Asked how he feels physically, he said, “What week is it, 13, 14? I feel like it’s Week 13, 14 of the season. No matter if I’ve had 200 touches or 10 touches, it’s a grind. It’s the wear and tear of the mind and the body. That’s the nature of the NFL, but also the beauty of it.”
Barkley this week was named the Giants’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which honors a player for community work in addition to on-field performance.
“That was a goal of mine,” he said. “I wanted to make change on the field and off the field. I wanted to have an impact. It’s an honor to be a nominee.
“I want to say shout-out to all the other 31 [nominees]. I think it’s a really cool award and hopefully we win the whole thing.”