Tiki Barber: Saquon Barkley is not a back at all

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New York Giants fans definitely have a “love-hate” relationship with former Giants running back Tiki Barber.

On the one hand, it’s easy to remember Barber as an all-time great giant and one of the best offensive players in team history. But on the other hand, his willingness to make controversial statements – correctly or incorrectly – is angering fans.

Well, Tiki just might be back after saying Saquon Barkley “might not be a full back” following the Giants’ 26-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Monday Night Football.

“The can not Go on Protect, and it starts to get blatant, ”Barber told the Tiki and Tierney Show. “It was probably the only problem he had getting into the NFL because he hadn’t been asked to do so at Penn State. And now you see him dive to the ground, without sticking his head in people’s chests. It’s going to be a handicap, because people don’t see it, it’s on tape, and it’s going to come out.

“If you look at him for the past two years, he doesn’t want to block. I learned that early in my career, because I was a third back before I was a “star” running back, if you can’t block you can’t be on the pitch in third. You just can’t, because you know it’s blitzes and dogs. You know someone’s gonna come from security [position]So you have to recognize what a defense is trying to do, how it is going to harass or blitz you. Recognition is one, then two, you gotta go hit a guy! Saquon Barkley is a great man and he doesn’t want to hit anyone. It’s frustrating to watch, it’s a great back, but it’s frustrating to watch trying to pass protect.

Tiki has a point here. There were a number of plays on Monday night where Barkley failed to recognize a blitz or properly encounter the Steelers blitz while on pass protection.

The most obvious was Mike Hilton’s sack at the start of the fourth quarter.

Barkley starts the game by moving to help Andrew Thomas block Bud Dupree, which would have been nice if the blitz hadn’t started. However, you can see Hilton’s helmet spinning in the backfield a few times before the ball slams, as the safety on that side of the field moves over the lunge. That should at least be a clue that the Steelers are sending pressure – especially in the context of a game where they blitzed very frequently (61% of drop-backs, according to NextGenStats).

But Barkley doesn’t recognize the blitz until Hilton clears the left B-gap and he just can’t recover in time to do anything other than plunge on Hilton’s heels. That sack ended the Giants’ training, and the resulting field position helped set up the touchdown that saw the Steelers win 16 with 5:28 left in the game.

And as Tiki says, this is not a new problem for Barkley. The most infamous game of his young career is that of passing protection.

Barkley identified Adams as a blitzer, but he appeared to be trying to catch him. Adams is a great player, but Barkley is bigger, stronger, more powerful, and has more natural leverage. He shouldn’t have been overpowered like that.

While Barkley has had a career-worst night chasing the ball, his pass protection issues should probably be the biggest concern. It’s an issue Barkley needs to tackle soon, otherwise he might not be a true three-way running back.

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