Saquon Barkley has a critic close to home.
Former Giants running back Tiki Barber said Tuesday that Barkley “might not be an every down back” because “he cannot pass protect.”
“He’s a big back who wants to play small,” Barber said on ‘Tiki and Tierney’ on the CBS Sports Radio and TV Networks.
"It is starting to become glaring. It’s probably the only issue he had to deal with coming into the NFL because he wasn’t asked to do it at Penn State. And you see him diving on the ground, not sticking his head in people’s chests. It’s gonna be a liability. Because people see it now, it’s on tape, and it’s gonna come out.”
As Barber knows, Barkley’s poor pass blocking already is a liability.
Last season, two failed Barkley pass blocks led directly to sack fumbles of Daniel Jones and opponents' defensive touchdowns: in Week 8 against the Detroit Lions (Jarrad Davis hit, Devon Kennard return) and in Week 10 against the Jets (Jamal Adams both).
It showed up again in some failed blocks by Barkley in Monday night’s season-opening loss to the Steelers. That, combined with his tendency to dance as a runner in the backfield, prompted Barber to add Tuesday that Barkley is “a big back who wants to play small.”
“If you’ve watched him for the last couple of years, he doesn’t want to block,” Barber said. "I learned this early on in my career. Because I was a third-down back before I was a star running back you know what I mean? If you can’t block, you can’t be on the field on third down. You just can’t. Because you know those are high blitz and dog downs, and someone’s coming from the safety (position). So you have to recognize what a defense is trying to do and how they’re going to dog and blitz you.
“So recognition is one, and then two, you’ve got to go hit a dude,” Barber added. “Saquon Barkley’s a big man. He doesn’t want to hit anybody. It’s frustrating to watch. He’s also a great back, but he’s frustrating to watch trying to pass protect.”
It should be noted that Joe Judge and the Giants' coaching staff are well aware Barkley needs to improve in this area.
In fact, as the Daily News chronicled during training camp, when Judge’s team did individual work, Barkley often was required to do pass protection drills specifically, sometimes on his own one-on-one with an assistant coach.
Judge also demonstrated when he chewed out Barkley in front of the entire offense one day that he is going to coach Barkley just as hard as any other player on the team.
So you can be sure he’s receiving tough love inside the building, also.
But hearing it out in public from a former Giants standout running back — this bluntly — sure does drive the point home.
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