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Saquon Barkley’s receiving, blocking skills impress Giants

Coach Pat Shurmur cites the rookie running back as having great spatial awareness.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley makes a catch

Giants running back Saquon Barkley makes a catch during the first day of rookie minicamp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Friday. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Giants have no buyer’s remorse with Saquon Barkley, at least not after his first day of practice with the team at rookie minicamp.

Coach Pat Shurmur said he was particularly impressed by the way Barkley was able to help in the passing game in Friday’s first on-field demonstration, both as a receiver and a blocker.

“He’s got real good awareness,” Shurmur said Saturday. “The first thing you see is he can catch the ball, certainly. He had a couple runs yesterday that looked really good. Nobody was tackling. But the other thing that you see when you work with him is his awareness, his spatial awareness, his ability to pick out who he has in pass protection. We purposely tried to have some blitz drills early to try to challenge the running backs, and I felt like he did a good job with that.”

Picking up blitzes and protecting the quarterback typically is the determining factor in whether a rookie running back sees the field or not. That doesn’t seem to be an issue for Barkley, the Giants’ No. 1 pick in the draft.

“When you talk about the difference between college ball and pro ball, you throw the ball quite a bit and you really depend on blitzers getting picked up,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s the thing we’re interested in seeing when we get a running back, and he did a good job of that.”

Not that the Giants thought he wouldn’t.

“It’s a matter of the background the player comes with,” Shurmur said of rookie running backs adjusting to pass protection in the NFL. “That’s why in some cases — it wasn’t the case with Barkley — but in some cases, you have to project whether he’s going to be able to do it because he wasn’t asked to do it. But we were able to see enough to know [Barkley] could.”

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