Saquon Barkley’s 2023 season hasn’t dispelled his Giants dilemma

Saquon Barkley’s 2023 season hasn’t dispelled his Giants dilemma

I’ve had Steven Wright, the great comedian and brilliant observationalist, on my mind lately. Hopefully, you are familiar with Wright’s work. Thanks to him we have the eternal question: “What’s another word for thesaurus?” Thanks to him, we have, “If at first you don’t succeed … then skydiving isn’t for you.”

And hundreds of others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Saquon Barkley lately, too, especially as the Giants watch the bottom third of the NFC playoff picture keep crumbling without having to lift a muscle, thanks to a well-timed bye. Since we last saw the Giants, both the Vikings and the Seahawks have lost. Before we see them again, it’s quite possible the Packers, Saints and Rams may well lose.

The Giants probably still won’t inch into any of the “In the Hunt” graphics just yet at 4-8, but they sure won’t fall any further away from them before next Monday night, either.

But as I was saying: Saquon. And Steven Wright. Wright once wryly observed: “I went down the street to a 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, ‘Hey, the sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said, ‘Yes. But not in a row.’”

Saquon Barkley has been the Giants’ best offensive player when on the field this season. Bill Kostroun for the NY Post
The Giants have relied on Saquon Barkley with Daniel Jones out for the season with a torn ACL. Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

If there is one thing this season has told us about Barkley, it’s what past seasons have told us about Barkley. When he is right, when he is well, when he is healthy, he’s just about the most dangerous, explosive and useful offensive weapon — non-quarterback division — in the sport. At worst, he’s on the short list alongside Christian McCaffrey, Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown. And he alone is the reason why the Giants are even within shouting range of “In the Hunt.”

It also is a reminder of this: while he may be terrific for 17 games, those games might not always be in a row. After a year of excellent health in 2022 — the only game he missed was the last game of the regular season against the Eagles, which was a no-hands-on-deck game with no meaning for either team — he has played nine of the Giants’ 12 games this year.

And the disparity is stark.

The three games he missed, the Giants were outscored by an average of 28-10, outgained by an average of 415-222 and, not surprisingly, 0-3 and barely competitive. The nine games he’s played they’ve won four, and lost two games thanks to crazy circumstances against the Bills and the Jets.

And he has been singularly responsible for keeping the Giants competitive. Tommy DeVito is a fun story, and he’s gotten better each week. But during the long stretch of DeVito’s internship when the Giants kept him in bubble wrap, and the just-as-long stretches when Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor were, at best, up-and-down, Barkley was the only reliable weapon the Giants could call upon.

And no, not every time he touched the ball ended well. A lot of times he wound up buried in the backfield. That’s going to happen when nine men are planted in the box. And yet, inevitably, there would come a few moments when Barkley would find his way through all that traffic in the line, and once he’s in the open field, anything can happen.

And it’s usually quite remarkable, whatever happens.

Thing is, we knew both of these things about Barkley before this year. Both of these things are what ultimately moved the Giants to franchise him, rather than offering the big-money extension he sought. And he has done nothing to dispel either the reality that he is one of the most electric players on the planet right now … or that he’s no guarantee to give you those 17 games in a row.

Saquon Barkley has continued to generate yards even with defenses waiting for him at the line of scrimmage. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

And so the Giants are staring at the exact same dilemma they faced a year ago. No matter who the Giants quarterback is next year — unless Joe Schoen hypnotizes his Chiefs and Bills counterparts Brett Veach or Brandon Beane, respectively, and figures out a way to put Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen in blue — there’s little doubt Barkley will be the Giants’ primary offensive rainmaker again.

And less doubt that they will hold their breath every time Barkley crashes into the line and is pounced by seven different tacklers taking aim at seven different vulnerable spots on his body. It’s enough of a potential conundrum that it welcomes one last observation from Mr. Wright: “I live on a one-way street that’s also a dead end. I’m not sure how I got there.”

Check Also

Guardians thump Red Sox 6-0 | News, Sports, Jobs

Guardians thump Red Sox 6-0 | News, Sports, Jobs

BOSTON — Will Brennan hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the seventh inning and the …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *