Tiki Barber knows his legacy is in trouble with the addition of Saquon Barkley to the Giants. And he’s cool with that.
“Leading up to it we kept talking about it on our [radio] show,” Barber told Newsday. “They were like: ‘Why do you want them to take a running back? He’ll break all your records.’ I was like: ‘Yeah, that’s a good thing!’”
Right now, Barber still has a lead over Barkley on the team’s all-time rushing list — 10,449 yards to zero. He also has a 586-catch advantage on the all-time reception list (Barber is second in team history, first among running backs). But as reports reach him about Barkley’s abilities and what the rookie has been flashing during OTAs this week, he is starting to sweat.
“Look, he’s got at least eight years before he can get it done, maybe seven years,” Barber said. “But it would be best for the team in the short term and that’s really what I care about.”
Barber, who was hosting an event in Manhattan on Tuesday night for Thuzio, the media company he co-founded, said the addition of Barkley will help not only the Giants in general but one Giant in particular.
“Eli, specifically, he’s best in play-action,” Barber said. “At least early in his career he was. So often over the last couple of years they’re lining up in shotgun and having the running back attack the line of scrimmage side-saddle. You know, that shuffle step. It’s hard to read like that. You don’t see everything. You’re basically cut off from one side of the field. But [the addition of Barkley] gives diversity. It makes the opposing defensive coordinators have to think instead of saying ‘All right, I know their tendency is to pass on first and second down and as long as we keep them playing regular we have an advantage.’”
Barber said Barkley is part of a running back renaissance in the NFL.
“I love this new breed of running back,” he said. “Obviously LeVeon Bell is the one we talk about. David Johnson falls into that category as well. Melvin Gordon falls into that category. Todd Gurley. Alvin Kamara is a perfect example. They can do everything. And they let an offensive coordinator gameplan so many different things without tipping their hand. Saquon is that kid. Catch the ball out of the backfield, and he’s fantastic running between the tackles.”
Barber said the best example of that kind of play was Shane Vereen who caught 11 passes for 64 yards in the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks. The Giants tried to channel that element by signing Vereen as a free agent but could never quite figure out how to use it. In three seasons with the Giants, Vereen averaged just over three catches per game.
“Those checkdowns turn out to be big plays,” Barber said. “It’s found yardage, stolen yardage, when you have a running back who can, when a pass play breaks down, pick up 4 or 5 yards. I think Wayne Gallman is capable of that as well, but Saquon is just so explosive.”
Barber called Barkley a “to-the-house player.” Those are rare in the NFL.
Barber also pointed out that the Giants have another of those.
“And that’s why Odell [Beckham Jr.] is so indispensable,” he said. “He’s a to-the-house player. Now they have two to-the-house guys. The tight end [Evan Engram] is explosive. They’re just set up to be really good.”
Only time will tell, but maybe even record-breaking.