NY Giants: Top 5 breakout candidates for the 2020 season

NY Giants(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NY Giants(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /
5 of 6
NY Giants
2. Saquon Barkley of the NY Giants (Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images) /

2. RB Saquon  Barkley

When Dave Gettleman opted not to trade back in the 2018 NFL Draft and instead used the second overall selection to take running back Saquon Barkley, many experts and fans felt it was a reach to grab a skill position player that early in the draft, especially in the midst of a rebuild.

In his rookie year, all Barkley would do was rush for over 1,300 yards, while catching 91 passes for 721 yards, score a total of 15 touchdowns, en route to a Rookie of the Year Award, a Pro Bowl selection, and a first-team All-Pro selection. He looked very much like the “generational talent” that he had been hyped as.

Barkley’s sophomore season would be a trying one, as he would miss three games due to a high ankle sprain and would not look as explosive as he was in his rookie campaign until late in the season. Despite the injury proving to be detrimental, Barkley would still rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 52 passes for 438 yards, while scoring eight total touchdowns on the year.

As impressive as Barkley has been in his first two years in the league, he has had to labor behind an offensive line that has lacked the presence of a solid tackle on either side of the line and has struggled to find holes in which to run through due to shoddy offensive line play.

That should change this year with the number of assets that Gettleman and the NY Giants have brought in to solidify their offensive line. With first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas, third-round pick Matt Peart, fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux, and free agent Cam Fleming joining Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, Nate Solder, Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley, the Giants should be able to put together a strong offensive line with solid depth and versatility to deal with potential injuries and ineffectiveness.

This may be the most talented and deepest offensive line group that the Giants have had in over a decade. There are some legitimate road graders that excel at getting to the second level in blocking schemes. This should mean a lot bigger holes for Barkley to run through in the run game and significantly better blocking on screen passes, where Saquon is a dangerous threat to opposing defenses.

If the vast improvement on the offensive line wasn’t tantalizing enough of a reason to think Barkley is a candidate for a breakout year in 2020, then perhaps the addition of excellent blockers at the tight end position will push you over the edge.

 Rhett Ellison was known for his blocking ability, but struggled to remain on the field due to injury and retired after the conclusion of the 2019 season. Evan Engram was awful at blocking as previously mentioned and did not fare well in Ellison’s absence.

Adding Levine Toilolo to the tight end group will give Barkley a massive improvement in run blocking from his tight end position. At 6’8″ and 270-pounds, Toilolo essentially gives the Giants an extra offensive lineman, who is a threat to catch a pass downfield.

After being an integral part of the dominant run game in San Francisco last season, New York hopes Toilolo can have the same effect in front of Barkley this year.

It should be noted that Kaden Smith is also a very good blocker and that the improvement that Barkley had late in the season last year coincided with the addition of Smith to the roster. Having two big, young, tight ends who are excellent blockers bodes well for potential improvement in Barkley’s game.

The loaded stable of running backs behind Barkley should also help him stay fresh this season. The NY Giants added veteran running back Dion Lewis via free agency, as well as former Maryland speedster Javon Leake and Austrian football standout Sandro Platzgummer as undrafted free agents who will act as much needed depth at running back that last year basically only included fellow returning back  Wayne Gallman.

Due to the NY Giants being so shallow at running back and with Gallman dealing with injuries of his own, Barkley was forced to shoulder nearly the entire load at running back when he was healthy last season.

Having capable backups behind him to ease some of the burdens should help prevent Barkley from wearing down late in games and as the season wears on.

Now that he is fully healed from the ankle injury, the offensive line is significantly improved from the pathetic state that it was in last season, with the addition of excellent blockers at tight end, and addition of depth at running back, there is no reason to believe that Saquon Barkley isn’t poised to have an incredible breakout season in 2020.