Can Brian Daboll make Saquon Barkley a franchise player for Giants?

Many New York Giants fans — and quite frankly, NFL fans in general — believe this is the end of the road for Saquon Barkley in the Big Apple, whether he finishes the 2022 season with the team, gets traded before Week 1, or is moved at the trade deadline.

But are some of us perhaps not paying enough attention to the fairly unlikely scenario that Barkley remains a fixture with the Giants after this upcoming season?

Head coach Brian Daboll continues to (rightfully) receive praise and credit for the development of quarterback Josh Allen, who ascended to stardom while Daboll was the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator for the last three seasons.

When he took over, the Bills were 30th in the NFL in both total points and total yards. By the time he left, Buffalo arguably had the best offense in the league, depending who you asked.

If you look closer, though, the team’s rushing attack played a big role in that. Daboll knows a balanced attack is crucial for success and he’s managed to squeeze production out of almost every running back that came through Buffalo the last few years.

  • 2019 – 10th in rushing yards (2,054)
  • 2020 – 20th in rushing yards (1,723)
  • 2021 – 6th in rushing yards (2,209)

Let’s call 2020 an outlier due to the pandemic season, coupled with the fact that it was Allen’s first full season of actually being let loose (4,544 passing yards and 37 touchdowns).

Can Giants HC Brian Daboll make Saquon Barkley a franchise player?

In 2019, Daboll got 599 yards (3.6 YPC) out of 36-year-old Frank Gore and 775 yards (5.1 YPC) out of rookie Devin Singletary. In 2020, Singletary took over the starting role (687 yards, 4.4 YPC) and rookie Zack Moss racked up 481 yards (4.3 YPC). Allen also averaged 4.1 YPC, so while the cumulative numbers weren’t impressive, the rushing attack was efficient.

Then, in 2021, it all came together. Singletary logged 870 yards (4.6 YPC), Allen added 763 (6.3 YPC), Moss contributed 345 (3.6 YPC) and Matt Breida got in on the fun (125 yards, 4.8 YPC).

If that’s the division of labor for the Giants in 2022 (with Daniel Jones and Barkley getting a majority of the carries and others contributing here and there), might Barkley finally find himself entrenched in a role where he can succeed and sustain?

Remember, Barkley is only entering his age-25 season and 2022 will be (hopefully) a second breakout since he’ll be two years removed from his torn ACL suffered in 2020. It’s not outlandish to consider Barkley as the franchise running back if he can re-establish his 2018 Rookie of the Year form, especially with an improved offensive line in front of him and a more (hopefully) organized passing attack that isn’t so predictable.

And honestly, even with an impressive Pro Bowl campaign, Barkley will still have a tough time cracking the upper-echelon AAV totals for the league’s top backs. He won’t get Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook or Derrick Henry money. He simply hasn’t accomplished anywhere close to what they have.

Perhaps an extension that pays him $10 million per season … again, assuming there’s a clear return to form and an ability to absorb the larger, more versatile role that’s expected of him?

The Giants are in salary cap hell right now, but they’ll have ample space in 2023, and it really could be a positive, mutual pairing for the remainder of Barkley’s prime if all goes according to plan.