EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Running back Saquon Barkley has been exactly as advertised during his rookie season with the New York Giants. The Eagles saw firsthand what Barkley can do last month and will see it again Sunday when the teams meet at Lincoln Financial Field.
Ten games into his inaugural NFL season, the former Penn State star has shown no signs of hitting the rookie wall. During the last two games, Barkley had his highest number of carries this season as the Giants (3-7) experienced a mini-revival by winning both.
After carrying the ball 20 times in a 27-23 Monday night road win against the San Francisco 49ers, Barkley came back Sunday to rush for 142 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns, all season highs, in a 38-35 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. He also caught two passes for 10 yards and another score.
"I think the routine that I have, the people that I work with in and outside of the facility are keeping me straight and keeping me healthy," Barkley said after Sunday's win. "I have to continue to keep that routine and continue to get better for my team so I'm coming in as fresh as I can."
It was the best Barkley has looked since a 34-13 home loss to the Eagles on Oct. 11 when he rushed for 130 yards and an electrifying 50-yard touchdown on 13 carries. He also caught nine passes for 99 yards.
At 6-foot, and 233 pounds, Barkley has an enviable combination of power and speed. What makes Barkley even more dangerous is that he is just as effective in the passing game as the running game.
He has rushed for 728 yards (4.6 average) and seven touchdowns and has made 64 receptions for 540 yards and three scores.
"He's an outstanding player, and when you can throw it to him and hand it to him, that makes things terrific," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's had a positive contribution in our three victories, and he's gotten better in each of the other games. It's great for the New York football Giants that Saquon's with us."
Barkley says he feels good about his development but not good enough to get complacent.
"I will never be satisfied, but other than that, I definitely feel like I'm getting better throughout the year," Barkley said. "Plays are becoming clearer to me, I'm seeing the field a lot better."
He credits the veterans for his development, especially quarterback Eli Manning. Barkley recalled a recent occasion when he and Manning were watching film and the veteran quarterback amazed him with his football acumen.
"I was probably in there for an hour and he sat down with me for like 20 minutes and showed me three things that I didn't even see," Barkley recalled. "That just showed me how far I am from being where I want to be. I definitely respect Eli, not only as a player but as a person."
Manning has enjoyed watching Barkley's progression.
"Saquon has gotten better every week, and that is what you ask guys to do — to try to improve," Manning said.
Giants guard Jamon Brown was claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 31 and has started the last two games. Brown said that Barkley's elusiveness is what has surprised him the most.
"I know watching from afar you see him make plays and see that this kid is special," Brown said. "To be able to block for him and feel his presence and energy and see how he is able to stop and go quickly and his agility, you just say 'wow.' "
With the Giants feeling better about things because of the two-game winning streak, Barkley says he's eager to face the Eagles, looking to make amends for the first game.
"I am just excited to go out there and try to tackle those guys to get a win," he said. "They got one on us, so we just have to focus this week and try to get them."
And the best way for that to happen is for Barkley to continue to carry a heavy load in both the running and passing game.