Is Saquon Barkley fully healthy and ready to return to the top echelon of NFL running backs? The Giants showed they plan to use Saquon at multiple positions during OTAs. But, what’s the Giants’ backup plan?
An Offense to Forget in 2021
As with most team positions, the 2022 version of the Giants’ backfield could look very different than last season. And rightfully so given the 2021 performance. In total, the Giants’ rushing attack finished 24th in the NFL in yards and 31st in rushing touchdowns. Pretty anemic, right? Well, when you end your season with QB sneaks from your own 1-yard line, there’s not much expectation for catching lightning in this bottle.
The Giants return Saquon, a second-year pro, Gary Brightwell, and second-year International signee Sandro Platzgummer. Gone is Devontae Booker who tied Saquon for the 2021 rushing title with 593 yards. Booker did it on 17 fewer carries than Barkley. But, it was clear Saquon was struggling to find his mojo after returning from his 2020 ACL injury. Also gone is Elijhaa Penny after four years in a full back/running back supporting role. All RBs suffered from a miserable offensive line and the late-season inept passing game once Daniel Jones went out with a neck injury. Giants’ 2021 rookie draft pick, Gary Brightwell, played mostly on special teams. And let’s not forget that Daniel Jones has wheels, finishing third on the team in rushing yards (298 yards) in just 11 games.
Significant Additions to the Backfield for 2022
The Giants have added depth and competition at running back this offseason. They also added two RBs with experience in Brian Daboll’s offense. In January, GM Joe (Schoen) signed Antonio Williams to a Reserve/Futures contract. Williams has spent the last two seasons on the Bills’ practice squad. In his one game on the Bills’ active roster in 2020, Williams was solid with 83 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs. It wasn’t enough to earn him a roster spot in 2021. In March, the Giants added Matt Breida as a free agent signing. Breida was the 3rd RB on the Bills in 2021 behind Devon Singleterry and Zach Moss. Breida enters his 6th season after starting his career in San Francisco as a strong contributor to the 49ers’ “running back by committee” scheme. He had over 1000 total yards in his second season. Look for Breida to be penciled in as #2 RB behind Saquon as camp gets started next month.
In addition, the Giants were aggressive in the speed-dating post-draft undrafted free agent market, signing RBs Jashaun Corbin out of Florida State and Jeremiah Hall out of Oklahoma. Corbin has the potential to make the Giants’ opening day roster, perhaps even challenge Breida for the #2 RB spot. Corbin was talked about as a possible 3rd round pick prior to the draft. He flashed some good ability during OTAs and minicamps. Hall, at 6’2″ and 248 lbs was brought in as a potential FB/H-Back, with a primary role as a blocker for the RBs. He reminds me a little of Brandon Jacobs.
Giants RB Outlook
As the Giants open training camp in late July, the focus will be on getting Saquon ready to return to top form and showcase his playmaking ability all over the field. We saw some of that in OTAs. Then look for the competition to heat up for RB#3 between Brightwell, Corbin, and Williams. They will see a lot of playing time in preseason games. The 53-man roster may have three RB slots. If it does, I like Corbin to stick with Saquon and Breida. I see Williams as a practice squad perennial. Hall will battle the TEs for that H-Back slot.