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Special Report

Sent: 03-20-2024

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he was one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls until the past few. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


By Jason Leach
What will the New York Giants running game look like without Saquon Barkley?

For the first time since the 2017 season, the New York Giants will not have Barkley on the roster. The 27-year-old star running back signed a three-year, $37.75 million contract with the rival Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Even though the writing was on the wall that it was unlikely Barkley would return to the Giants, many fans were furious that he decided to sign with the Eagles of all teams. But when you take a step back and think rationally, you can't fault anyone who feels they're making the best financial decision for themselves and their family.

It will be weird seeing Barkley in an Eagles uniform, but at the end of the day, the NFL is a business where players move from team to team for one reason or another.

Now that the shock of losing one of the most dynamic offensive players in the team's history, Giants fans are wondering what the offense will look like without Barkley.

As a rookie in 2018, Barkley made an immediate impact rushing for 1,307 yards with 11 rushing touchdowns, and led the team in receptions with 91 for 721 yards with four receiving touchdowns. Before his arrival, the last time a Giants running back had 1,000 yards rushing was Ahmad Bradshaw back in 2012.

Some may fear the Giants running game which was ranked 16th in the NFL last season, will take a dramatic step back in 2024. But general manager Joe Schoen is adding pieces around the team that he feels will make the ground game more efficient going forward.

First, he signed veteran running back Devin Singletary to a three-year $16.5 million contract. Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll are very familiar with Singletary from their time together with the Buffalo Bills from 2019-2021. Singletary is not the dynamic playmaker that Barkley is, but he is a dependable and versatile back with good balance. His yards per carry of 4.6 is higher than Barkley's 4.3, which people will say is the product of him playing behind a better offensive line which is true, but it also shows he's been productive.

The 26-year-old Singletary has also shown he is durable as he has played in at least 16 games in each of the last four seasons.

Naturally, fans will compare what Singletary does, to what Barkley did with Big Blue, and with what Barkley does with the Eagles. But the NFL is the ultimate team game, and Schoen feels he made the team better by bolstering the offensive line. New York's offensive line has been the Achilles' heel for the franchise for a long time. Schoen is hoping that will change this year after signing Jon Runyan Jr., Jermaine Eluemunor, Austin Schlottman, and Aaron Stinnie. Them along with new offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo give reasons to believe that the line will be improved and the running game will be more efficient.

While Singletary is poised to be the team's lead running back in 2024, the team is also optimistic about what second-year running back Eric Gray can do in his sophomore season. Playing behind Barkley and dealing with injuries, Gray seldom saw the field last season carrying the ball just 17 times for 48 yards. But he will be given the opportunity to see more playing time this season.

With Matt Brieda a free agent, expect the team to look for another back to complement Singletary and Gray. Singletary is listed at 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, and Gray is listed as 5-10, 210. So it would be in the best interest of the team to find a bigger and more physical back that can be used in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The 6-0 247-pound AJ Dillon would have been an ideal fit for Big Blue, especially considering he has family in the northeast. On a personal note, I actually reached out to a friend of his family to see if they could sway him in coming to New York. In the end, Dillon chose to re-sign with the Green Bay Packers.

But he decided to re-sign with the Packers who were in a position to pay him more than the Giants. However, I still expect the team to look to add a bigger and more physical running back late in the draft, as I just don't believe Gary Brightwell or Jashaun Corbin will be in the mix this season.

Regardless of who else joins New York's backfield this season, Singletary will be the lead back, but I do feel as the season progresses will see more of a running back committee approach. Singletary will probably have around 200 carries, with Gray and whoever the third back is, getting their share of carries. It won't be the Earth, Wind, and Fire days of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Bradshaw, but I think the Giants running game with the help of the new linemen will be balanced and efficient.

You can understand why some fans will be pessimistic about the offense and the running game after they let the franchise's fourth-leading rusher walk out the door. But remember there were similar sentiments after the franchise's leading rusher Tiki Barber retired following the 2006 season. Well, the following season, Big Blue would win its third Lombardi Trophy and their ground game played a pivotal role.

I'm not saying the Giants will win the Super Bowl this season, in fact, they'll have a tough time making the playoffs. All I'm saying is we need to have patience and see how the season unfolds before we declare that the Giants will have one of the worst rushing offenses in 2024.

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