Saquon Barkley had one of the worst games of his young NFL career on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He managed to pick up a measly six rushing yards on 15 carries in the game for the New York Giants.
One of the team’s former star running backs thinks that the issues for Barkley don’t stop there. Tiki Barber, who now hosts a radio show for CBS Sports with Brandon Tierney, had a heater of a take on Tuesday. He says that Barkley’s blocking calls into question whether the former No. 2 pick is an “every down back.”
“I will say that Saquon Barkley, he may not be an every down back. He cannot pass protect,” Barber said confidently, ushering in a loud “whoa!” from his co-host. “It has become glaring. It is probably the only issue he had coming into the NFL, because he wasn’t asked to do it at Penn State, and now you see him diving into the ground, not sticking his head in people’s chests, and it’s going to be a liability. People see it now, it’s on tape, and it’s going to come out.”
Running backs may be regaining some steam, after years where no one was taking anyone shy of an all-world talent in the first round. Players like Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey have become high draft picks and then received massive contract extensions because they are not only elite runners of the football, but dangerous in the receiving game, and able to pick up important blocking responsibilities in the backfield. Barkley may be a better pure rusher than anybody, when the porous Giants offensive line allows it, but Barber doesn’t believe he’s nearly as well-rounded, which drives down his ceiling a bit.
"Saquon Barkley is a great back, but he might not be an every down back. He cannot pass protect. It's becoming glaring & could become a liability"@TikiBarber says Saquon needs to vastly improve his pass-blockinghttps://t.co/XPocW1rdxt pic.twitter.com/qigna0i9Gm
— TikiAndTierney (@TikiAndTierney) September 15, 2020
“If you watch him for the last couple of years, he doesn’t want to block,” Barber added. “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-blitzing dog downs.”
“Someone’s coming from the safety, so you have to recognize what a defense is going to do… Recognition is one, and then two, you’ve gotta go hit a dude. Saquon Barkley is a big man, and he doesn’t want to hit anybody. It’s frustrating to watch trying to pass protect.”
Tierney brought up Barkley’s “dancing” in the backfield, which contributes to all of the lost yardage on rushing plays. Barber went right back in, calling him a “big back that wants to play small.”
When he’s healthy and given the opportunity, there are few more talented and electric players in the NFL, but Tiki Barber may not be wrong here. Even so, he’s far from the only issue for the New York Giants right now.