Saquon Barkley didn’t tap dance around a question Thursday regarding the criticism he has heard most often throughout his career.
Asked about running more “north and south” this summer — particularly in light of coach Brian Daboll noting that he “hit the ball downhill” and “didn’t dance” in his four carries against the Patriots in the preseason opener last week — the running back launched into a tirade against those who have harped on his hesitations and scowled at his stuttersteps from afar.
“I’m really kind of fed up with people who never played the position trying to speak on how I run the football,” he said. “We call them ‘All-Pros with clickers in their hands.’ Running back is a tough position but it’s easy to be there and watch football, watch on TV or even watch on film and stop the clicker and go 'He should have made that cut.' There are a lot of things that go into making that cut, there are a lot of things with your shoulders being square, there are a lot of things that have an impact on your vision.”
Such suggestions about Barkley are nothing new. As a rookie, then coach Pat Shurmur drilled into him the importance of picking up the “dirty” two or three yards by putting his shoulder down and going straight rather than swinging for the fences (or the end zone) on each carry. The latest assault on his style came from an anonymous offensive coach in the NFL who said, “he still doesn't know how to play running back enough” and “he's a bouncer . . . he's going to have to learn that 4-yard runs in this league are good, instead of stopping, cutting it back and losing 2" in a recent ESPN report.
“I know people will say [I’m] dancing and this and that and he doesn’t get north and south, but I’m not going to just run into my linemen’s back,” Barkley said. “That’s not how I play the game. That’s not how I’ve been playing since I was 8 years old. I’ve been playing the position for a very long time. By no means am I a perfect running back and I still have so much work to do, but I know that’s been the conversation and the thing that’s been said about me is he don’t know what he’s doing and he's just dancing.”
All of that said, Barkley has definitely shown a willingness to take a direct route with the ball in his hands in training camp, as Daboll noted. He’s been much less ballerina, much more a cast member from “Stomp.” Some of that may be due to the improvements in the blockers in front of him being able to open holes.
While Barkley insisted he has not changed, he did acknowledge that other elements have.
“The coaches have been making a point of emphasis on the running style we have as a team and the mentality we have as a team,” Barkley said. “I’m going to do whatever Coach wants me to do and that’s where my focus is, trying to be the best running back for the team.”
Notes & quotes: WR Kenny Golladay had one of his best practices of the summer, which included a long reception down the left sideline on a pass from Daniel Jones . . . WR Kadarius Toney, LB Blake Martinez and C Jon Feliciano all participated in individual drills Thursday but were held out of team reps in full pads after missing previous practices . . . Asked about Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s suggestion that he blitzed too often in the preseason opener, Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said simply: “We’re on to Cincinnati.” It was mocking a famous Belichick quote but also true because the Giants host the Bengals on Sunday.