By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: There’s no question that Saquon Barkley is a once in a decade talent as he has displayed jaw-dropping moments with only two season under his belt. However; just how good can Barkley be? Have we seen the best of him or have we seen just the tip of the iceberg of what Barkley can accomplish on the field. Keep in mind that Barkley’s performances have been behind a sub-par offensive line and with a losing team that found themselves trailing in more games than they led.
For 2020, the focus this offseason was to improve the offensive line and by drafting offensive Tackle Andrew Thomas in the 1st round and hiring new offensive line coach Marc Columbo, the Giants have taken the right steps improving the offensive line. Giant fans should see Barkley elevate his game as it’s been discussed that the Giants’ new offense will feature around Barkley in the same fashion that Garrett utilized Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas. If so, could Saquon Barkley join an elite group of running backs who have eclipsed 2000 rushing yards in a season?
There have been a total of seven running backs who have rushed for over 2000 yards in a season in NFL history, the 1st to accomplish this was O.J Simpson in 1973 and the last to do it was Adrian Peterson in 2012. Sandwiched in between were Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson. Each running back needed to carry the ball well over 300 times to accomplish this feat; while Barkley’s career high in carries thus far in his short career has only been 261. As I mentioned earlier, expectations are that the Giants will utilize Barkley more in Jason Garrett’s offense, the question is: how much more? Can we expect to see Barkley’s workload increase to 10%? If so, that would only give him roughly 288 touches on the ground. Can Barkley handle a 20% increase workload? Which would put him slightly over 300 carries (313); which is still roughly twenty touches less than the lowest carries among that group; which belongs to Simpson with 332 carries. Keep in mind that the NFL is more of a passing league than it was when any of the seven running backs accomplished the 2000 yards on the ground.
So the question remains, what can we expect from Saquon Barkley in the new Giants offense? It is a reach to believe he can eclipse 2000 rushing yards this season or perhaps before his career is through? Or is that too much to ask? To keep the math as simple as possible, Saquon Barkley is averaging 4.8 yards per carry in his first two seasons. So if he could match that number in 2020, he would need to carry the ball roughly 417 times to eclipse 2000 yards.
Keep in mind that the NFL record for the most carries in a single season is 416; held by Larry Johnson and only a total of five running backs have ever carried the ball for more than 400 times in a single season (Jamal Anderson, James Wilder, Eric Dickerson and Eddie George are the others). In order for Saquon Barkley to join this elite group and rush for over 2000 yards, a lot needs to go his and the Giants way. Barkley needs to stay healthy, that’s the most important factor. Giants need to be ahead in most of the games to justify running the ball at a high rate and Barkley needs to average no less than 5.8 yards per carry as I really can’t foresee him carrying the ball for more than 350 times.
Are these numbers attainable? Possibly; that would mean that Barkley would need to average roughly 22 carries per game. I think to expect him to achieve this in 2020 is an extreme reach, as I still believe the Giants are rebuilding. Barkley will have a better chance joining the elite seven by 2021 or beyond as the team around him gets better; especially the offensive line.