Saquon Barkley hit a huge hole decisively and was off to the races, Secretariat again in blue 26.
Best Player on the Field Again, finally.
“There was a play today where he bust through the middle and I was trying to hawk him down,” Julian Love told The Post, chuckling. “That dude has some juice to him. His past few years have been tough on him physically and mentally, but he’s been really attacking this offseason in what he wants to do for the team.”
Once Brian Daboll begins game-planning for regular-season opponents, there should be no reason why Barkley does not get 20 touches and beyond on any given Sunday. He caught 91 passes as a rookie, when he totaled 2,028 combined yards, and along with Kadarius Toney and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, he can make life easier for Daniel Jones. If you give any of them an inch, they will take a mile.
Asked how big of a weapon Barkley can be in the passing game, Love said: “Oh, huge. I think he’s up there with the best of ’em in terms of [Christian] McCaffrey, [Alvin] Kamara, these receiving backs so to speak. He can run routes with the best of ’em. So yeah, I think that’s part of his game that hasn’t been utilized as much that you might see this year.”
Love applauds Barkley for his maniacal comeback from that torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season and the nagging ankle injury that sabotaged his 2021 season.
“He’s a warrior,” Love said, “and he’s coming back stronger than ever.”
Safety Andrew Adams was with the Buccaneers when Barkley as a rookie rushed 27 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns and had two catches for 10 yards and another score in a 38-35 Giants win.
“Probably the most explosive player on the field,” Adams told The Post. “Always had to have an eye on him, definitely.”
Adams was a Giant in 2016 and ’17 and at OTAs and training camp in 2018, when Barkley was drafted. And now, in the Saquon Summer of 2022?
“He looks like Saquon Barkley,” he said. “I think he’s gonna have a great year.”
The running back position wasn’t at the forefront of the Daboll’s offensive philosophy in Buffalo in no small part because Josh Allen could torch defenses with his legs as well as with his arm.
Daboll didn’t have a healthy, confident, motivated Saquon Barkley either.
He has him now.
The irony is that if then-GM Dave Gettleman had drafted Allen with the second-overall pick instead of Barkley, he might still be GM and the you-don’t-draft-a-running-back-second-overall crowd wouldn’t have excoriated him.
And now here we are, five seasons later, and Barkley confronts a reality where he isn’t merely trying to run to daylight, he is trying to run to a new contract and a “Once a Giant, only a Giant” future in blue 26.
He has looked like … wait for it … a Gold Jacket Guy … wait for it again .. touched by the hand of God.
His offensive line is not yet fixed, but the arrival of menacing rookie right tackle Evan Neal bookending left tackle Andrew Thomas should mean more north-and-south power running and less dancing from Barkley. We sometimes forget that he is 230 pounds with the moves of a smaller man with those awe-inspiring Saquads.
Barkley has 12 games of 100-plus rushing yards, and 11 of them came in his first two seasons. He offered a reminder (102 yards on 21 carries) of who and what he was in a 29-3 loss to the Bears on Jan. 2 in the next-to-last game of the Joe Judge Era.
Barkley was a leader as a rookie and even more so now.
“I would say in his play and he’s also vocal like on the sideline, just bringing energy, when other people make plays, running to congratulate ’em, all that,” Adams said.
Barkley has been voted captain three straight seasons by teammates. He is one of Daboll’s smart, tough and dependable stars. Possibly even smart, tough and dependable MVP. He is still only 25. He’s exactly what you want and what John Mara welcomes as a face of your franchise. Still, Barkley might need a career year for GM Joe Schoen to consider a second contract for him. Jones and the passing game struggled the past two days against Wink Martindale’s carnivorous defense, but Daboll has nearly four weeks to work on it.
Just Give Saquon Barkley the Damn Ball — 20 touches and beyond — and root for him. Best Player on the Field Again, finally.