The expectations cast upon Saquon Barkley have been high ever since the Giants drafted him second overall in 2018 and Dave Gettleman said he was “touched by the hand of God” with gold-jacket potential.
But they pale in comparison to the goals the Giants running back sets for himself.
Entering his third season in the NFL, Barkley is expecting to take his game to another level this fall as a “complete back,” even while knowing he may still come up short of his ultimate aspirations.
“I will never be there, I’m going to be completely honest with you,” Barkley said Thursday after practice. “I keep saying I’m going to work for it and work for it, but the way I view myself and the confidence I have in myself, the goal for me to be elite is so high that I don’t think I will ever honestly reach it.
“But if I come anywhere near close to it, I know that I put the work in every single day. I personally can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and know whenever I am done with this and wrapped it up, knowing that I put everything I had. Whatever that is, if it’s awards, if it’s Super Bowls, if it’s not, I know for myself internally the work that I put in, I can be satisfied with that one day.”
In the immediate future, that means trying to turn his production into wins.
Through his first two seasons with the Giants, Barkley has been one of the game’s best running backs. He was the 2018 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns to go with 721 receiving yards, then battled through an ankle injury last season to still rush for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns while recording 438 receiving yards in 13 games.
But the Giants went a combined 9-23 around him, leaving Barkley frustrated by season’s end at the prospect of going home early.
So as he continues his chase greatness as a running back — citing Walter Payton and Marshall Faulk as the kind of complete back he aspires to be — he does so with an eye toward what will help turn the team’s fates around.
“I want to be elite overall, whether that’s in the pass game or the run game,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about winning games. If I can do that by helping my team in the pass game, then that’s the case. If that’s by helping them in the run game, then that’s the case. If it’s by stepping up and making that key block — we might throw the ball 40 times a game and I might have to be responsible for key blocks — then that’s what I have to do. It’s not just focusing on just me being elite. It’s whatever it takes to help the team win.”
Barkley will get his first chance to do that Monday night against the Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
The season opener comes after a long and unconventional offseason, but one that Barkley said he has spent being pushed like never before.
“No disrespect to any coaches I’ve had in the past, right now the coaches, with [running backs coach Burton] Burns and Stephen [Brown, offensive assistant], they just bring two different dimensions,” Barkley said. “The way they’ve been challenging me, Coach [Joe] Judge and everyone, it’s been probably the hardest offseason we’ve had. Determined to put the work in and put in the grind, and I think that’s going to translate to the football field.”