Tiki Barber said Saquon Barkley may not be an "every-down" back and that his pass protection is becoming "a liability" for the Giants and "frustrating to watch" as an observer.
Joe Judge thanked the former Giant for his input, but disagreed.
"He’s a key part of our team, he’s an integral part of our offense," Judge said of Barkley on Wednesday. "We’re going to keep feeding him the ball and he’s going to make some plays for us. I’m happy with the way he works, I’m very pleased with his attitude. He is a team-first guy who brings everybody along with him… I’m pleased with Saquon right now."
That despite Monday night’s performance that was unproductive to say the least. Barkley ran for just 6 yards on 15 carries against the Steelers. While he did catch six passes for 60 yards, he also had several breakdowns in protecting the quarterback. The most glaring of them was on a third down in the third quarter that led to a sack and a three-and-out.
"He cannot pass protect, and it is starting to become glaring," Barber said on his "Tiki and Tierney" radio show on Tuesday. "You see him diving on the ground, not sticking his head in people’s chests. It’s going to be a liability...If you’ve watched him for the last couple of years, he doesn’t want to block. I learned this early on in my career, because I was a third-down back before I was a star running back: if you can’t block, you can’t be on the field on third down. You just can’t, because you know those are high blitz and dog downs."
Pass protection is one of the areas where Barkley wanted to improve coming into his third season. The Giants wanted that, too. They hoped the addition of eight-year veteran running back Dion Lewis to the roster would help Barkley in this area. Lewis, though only 5-8 and 195, is known for his abilities at it.
"Pass protection is something that took me a while to learn, but the longer you do it, the more reps you get at it, the better you become," Lewis said during training camp. "I just look at it as a two-and-a-half to three second fight… It’s me versus him and I don’t want to get embarrassed."
Judge did not deny that Barkley needs to get better at the task.
"Look, we’re all working hard to get better every day in everything we do," he said. "We’re coming out of training camp, we have one game under our belt, there is not a player or coach on our team that doesn’t have to improve going into Week 2 and then consistently throughout the season. We have to go ahead and make up some ground quickly, but we have confidence in all of our players and we’ll work on all of the aspects of the game."
As for Barber, whose comments and criticisms of the Giants have rankled those in and outside the building in the past?
"I respect Tiki," Judge said. "Obviously he’s a guy who knows the game and has been a great player for this organization. But we’re going to go ahead and make sure we get everybody rising up."