New York Giants Running Backs Preview: All Eyes on Saquon – Sports Illustrated

The New York Giants haven’t had a 700-yard rusher since Saquon Barkley had 1,003 yards in the 2019 season. There are plenty of reasons for that, whether it’s Barkley’s inability to stay healthy, lack of depth at running back, a lack of talent and depth along the offensive line, or predictable play-calling.
But if the Giants offense is to get going again, they're going to need for the running game, and in particular, Barkley, to get back to being a unit that can carry its share of the load.
The focal point of the running back room in 2022 has to be Barkley’s performance heading into his contract year. Barkley is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie contract, where he’s set to make $7.217 million, making him the ninth highest-paid running back in the NFL. Whether looking at his health or production, Barkley’s 2022 will be the most important season of his career.
Barkley has been wildly inconsistent in his NFL career, even dating back to his rookie season in 2018, when he had 1,307 rushing yards. Of those 1,307 yards, 54% (706 yards) came on just 20 carries, meaning his other 241 carries resulted in just 601 yards for 2.5 yards per carry.
2021 was Barkley's best season as far as being able to produce without more than 30% of his yards coming on breakaway runs. In just about every other facet, though, 2021 was rough sailing for Barkley, who had a career-high two fumbles and six drops, despite having the second-fewest targets of his career.
Another issue that needs to be addressed for the 2022 season is the depth in the running back room. The early favorite to be the second running back right now is Matt Breida. Breida is a six-year NFL veteran who has made a name for himself as one of the fastest men in the league throughout his career.
As a Buffalo Bill in 2021, Breida was inactive for eight games, but when he was active, he had 4.8 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per catch. The speed and talent are still there for Breida, but he’s struggled to find consistent playing time since his last season in San Francisco in 2019. Daboll’s familiarity with Breida and the lack of proven depth in the running back room could give Breida the edge as RB2.
A dark horse candidate for a rotational role is the undrafted rookie from Florida State, Jashaun Corbin. Corbin is a back that seemingly every time he hit the field, it was clear he would find success. Corbin is a jack of all trades and master of none, but with further development, he could become a legitimate contributor to this Giants team.
Corbin isn’t the only rookie in the backfield to keep an eye on, as the Giants also signed Jeremiah Hall, a rookie fullback from Oklahoma. Hall is a versatile weapon that could be a contributor as a rusher, receiver, blocker, and special teamer.
Brian Daboll isn’t the type of play-caller to utilize fullbacks as feature parts of the offense, but Hall is talented enough to be used at multiple positions, similar to the Bills' undrafted fullback, Reggie Gilliam.
Hall could be used in a similar way to Gilliam as a fullback, tight end, and occasional slot receiver. In the backfield, Hall is also capable of playing halfback on passing downs, similar to how John Kuhn used to be used with the Packers to give Daniel Jones protection in the backfield and a rusher-receiver threat.
RB Saquon Barkley (5 Years): Barkley entered the NFL with unrealistic expectations after being selected with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. With the final year of his rookie contract here, Barkley is hoping for a healthy season behind what looks like the best offensive line in his NFL career.
RB Matt Breida (6 Years): It’s been two years since Breida has had 100 touches in a season, but he looks healthy and should get the opportunities in 2022. The upside is there for Breida to return to his peak 2018 form, and he addresses the immediate need for a backup on the Giants.
RB Gary Brightwell (2 Years): Brightwell was used sparingly on offense as a rookie, playing just 12 offensive snaps in the season. With a new coaching staff, offensive system, and a need in the backfield, Brightwell is hoping to grab a rotational role in 2022 to add to his special teams duties.
RB Jashaun Corbin (Rookie): An undrafted free agent that should have been drafted, Corbin has great NFL upside. Corbin is probably the best pass-protecting halfback on the Giants' roster without much drop-off, if any, as a runner or receiver from the alternatives.
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RB Sandro Platzgummer (1 Year): Platzgummer has been a practice squad player with the Giants since 2020. He is a product of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, his first step to the NFL following his time with the Swarco Raiders Tirol in Austria. He’s shown the ability to rip off big runs, as demonstrated in last year's preseason game against the Jets, but he has yet to be active for a regular season game.
RB Antonio Williams (1 Year): Williams is one of several new additions to the Giants roster that has prior experience with Brian Daboll in Buffalo. Likely a longshot for the roster heading into camp, Williams is looking for his first legitimate NFL opportunity, only having one game played so far.
FB Jeremiah Hall (Rookie): Hall enters training camp as the only true fullback on the Giants roster. Daboll doesn’t use a fullback as a focal point in the offense, but having Hall presents the Giants with another Swiss-army knife in the backfield.
Best Case Scenario: Barkley enters 2022 in the final year of his rookie contract as one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL despite having not played a full season since his rookie year in 2018.
If Barkley can stay healthy and produce with this new coaching staff, the Giants could have one less question to answer going into the 2023 season.
There is also plenty of youth in this running back room that, if any of Corbin, Platzgummer, Brightwell, or Williams step up, the Giants could have a multi-year answer as a second or even third running back in the rotation.
Worst Case Scenario: If Barkley is unable to stay healthy or if he remains healthy, but the offensive line doesn’t live up to expectations, that makes the Giants' decision about how to address their running back situation more difficult.
Barkley is immensely talented, but he needs offensive line help and to stay healthy–anything less makes an honest evaluation an impossible situation.
Sleeper: Every year, there are multiple late drafted or undrafted running backs that shock people and contribute to their team. If Corbin adds his name to that list in 2022, it will shock people, but it shouldn’t.
Corbin was incredibly productive behind a mediocre-at-best offensive line in Tallahassee and is a natural passing-down back with his ability as a receiver and protector.
On the Bubble: He’s only been on the Giants for one year, but Gary Brightwell, last year's sixth-round pick, could be on the outside looking in by the time camp is over.
There’s youth throughout the running back room, and Brightwell seems the least NFL-ready option and a guy who could find himself on the practice squad alongside Platzgummer.
The Giants have a young running back room with depth throughout, but so much of the group's success relies upon the success of Barkley.
In his career, Barkley has shown that his consistent success will depend on the offensive line, which could spell trouble for the Giants if the line isn't improved.
The future looks bright, but for 2022, the success of the running backs group is too heavily weighted by the success of one player to give this unit a ranking higher than a three on a scale of one through five.
Brandon Olsen is the founder of Whole Nine Sports, specializing in NFL Draft coverage, and is the host of the Locked On Gators Podcast.  

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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