This is the first installment of Giants position previews for the upcoming 2018 season. This will be an in-depth look at each position heading into training camp that begins on July 25th.
RB1: Saquon Barkley (Penn State: 1,271 yards rushing, 632 receiving yards, 21 total TD, 5.9 YPC)
RB2: Jonathan Stewart (680 rushing yards, 52 receiving yards, 7 total TD, 3.4 YPC)
RB3: Wayne Gallman (476 rushing yards, 193 receiving yards, 1 total TD, 4.3 YPC)
ON THE BUBBLE: Jalen Simmons, Robert Martin
KEY LOSSES: Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins
With no upgrade to the offensive line or the running back position -- with the exception of drafting Wayne Gallman out of Clemson -- it was almost expected this unit wasn't going to do much for the Giants last season.
It was former fifth-rounder Paul Perkins who was expected to take most of the workload at the start of the season, but after inadequate performances early on, Orleans Darkwa took over.
Darkwa added a little spark to the run game when he was handed the bulk of the worklad. He managed to corral 751 rushing yards on the season -- a team high -- and picked up five touchdowns. It was also surprising to see his 4.4 yards per carry despite the inefficient blocking in front of him.
Though Darkwa did provide some good numbers, the Giants still lacked tremendously in setting the tone on the ground. Also, veteran third-down man Shane Vereen was expected to be dynamic out of the backfield as he has been in the past. But he only saw 44 targets for 253 yards and no touchdowns through the air. On the ground, it was even worse at 164 yards and 3.6 yards per carry on 45 attempts.
In the end, this group came in 26th in rushing with 1,549 yards on the season. Whether it was the lack of playmaking or the lack of blocking, it was another season that saw a sub-par production from the backfield.
Biggest Question Heading Into Camp: Is Saquon Barkley the savior?
The savior is here! Or that's what the Giants are desperately hoping they found in their No. 2 overall pick.
Barkley was one of the highest-rated running back prospects coming out of college since Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. During his three seasons at Penn State, the 5-foot-11, 234-pound stole the hearts of the Nittany Lion faithful with his awe-dropping speed and shifty moves that were astonishing to see for a player his size.
With the Giants selecting Barkley instead of a need like that at quarterback (which we'll break down later), he may have the highest expectations out of anyone on the roster this season. He is expected to revitalize this unit, and once again, breathe life into the ground-and-pound mantra the Giants used to live by in the past.
The last time Big Blue had a 1,000-yard rusher was Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. I would say breaking that streak should be Barkley's goal in 2018, especially with a bolstered O-line. However, with what he has showcased on a football field in college and the Barry Sanders-like comparisons from experts, I think myself and the Giants expect him to do more than eclipse that total this season.
Much like other positions for the Giants, the running backs room got a complete makeover. Not only does Barkley join the mix, but veteran Jonathan Stewart was brought in by GM Dave Gettleman as well.
Stewart's role was viewed as a mentor to Barkley when he signed as the rookie is expected to see as bulk of the carries, which only makes sense. But Stewart has made it known that he came to the Giants to win, and he attends to do that on the field -- not with a tablet showing Barkley what he did right or wrong on the sideline.
That's exactly the type of feel this unit needs. Competition needs to come from all ends including Gallman, who has shown spurts of his elusiveness. For once, this will be a position to want to watch at training camp and certainly beyond.
All the hype surrounding Barkley will be put to the test early when he sees his first NFL game action, and the Giants are hoping he lives up to it. But, cmon, do we really need to hope? Barkley is a stud and fans should expect him to be a walking highlight reel alongside Odell Beckham Jr.
If all works out, he could very well be in the running for Rookie of the Year candidacy by the end of the season. That is the expectation Barkley will be living with this season, and I'm certain he's up for the challenge.
Expect this unit to see a full 360 in 2018.