Giants’ Saquon Barkley excited to run behind ‘freak’ Evan Neal


New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who aims to bounce back after two injury-plagued seasons, has looked solid this summer. Explosives, even.

In fact, one could argue that Barkley has turned back the clock. He resembles the player who won the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year more than the player who struggled to gain any traction over the previous two seasons.

Part of the reason for that is health. Another part stems from self-reflection and the rediscovered appreciation for where he is in life, Barkley says.

“Definitely smiling more. Not just for me personally, just trying to do a better job of living in the moment, taking it day by day, being appreciative. I get to come in and play for the New York Giants and play the game that I loved as a little kid,” Barkley told reporters on Friday. “Sometimes you can lose sight of that with the ups and downs, with the injuries or whatever is being said about you. At the end of the day, if you keep the main thing the main thing, you can go out there and perform at a high level and be who you are and let your true talents show.”

That’s a far cry from where Barkley was just a season ago.

But another reason for all that smiling is the presence of rookie offensive tackle Evan Neal. The 6-foot-7, 351-pound monster of a man has helped shore up one of the Giants’ biggest issues. The running game is poised to be the primary beneficiary.

“I’m excited to play not only behind him but the offensive line and continue to work with (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and all of the offensive guys,” Barkley said. “Evan’s been doing a great job coming to work every single day. He’s a freak. His athletic ability is insane and how big he is. When he walks in the room, you notice when he walks in the room.

“Like I said, for all of us, every single day we’ve just got to keep improving and keep getting better. I really think he can have a great future, but we just have to keep the main thing the main thing and keep building brick by brick and day by day.”

There is some added pressure this season, Barkley admits. He feels he’s let the team down over the previous two seasons — especially quarterback Daniel Jones.

“I don’t just feel that for Daniel, I feel that for the whole offense in general,” Barkley said. “If I’m able to go out there and do the things that I’m capable of doing, it’s going to make life a lot easier — not only on Daniel, but I feel like on everyone. If we all go out there, if we all go out there and do what we are capable of doing, it’s going to make life easier for every single one of us. We just got to come in every single day, continue to get the playbook down and continue to work. All the work that we put in will pay off later on.”

The ground game is an important aspect to the offense run by head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. A healthy and productive Barkley will go a long way in elevating the level of play of those around him.

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