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First impression successful for Saquon Barkley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants’ highlight in their opening preseason game occurred on the game’s first snap.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because that’s all Saquon Barkley needed to demonstrate why he was considered the premier player in 2018 NFL Draft, and why the Giants chose him at No. 2.

The Giants were backed up on their own 13-yard line when Barkley took a handoff from Eli Manning, took a step forward but found the middle clogged, broke to his right and scampered 39 yards – longer than all but two of the team’s 394 rushing attempts in the 2017 season.

The big beginning didn’t catalyze the Giants to victory – they lost to the Cleveland Browns in MetLife Stadium, 20-10 – but the postgame buzz in the Giants’ locker room centered on Barkley, who ran for a game-high 43 yards on five carries.

“I loved his first run,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “If only they all could be like that. You could see, it wasn’t too big for him. He’s probably played before bigger crowds at Penn State. It really wasn’t too big for him, and I think he took the next step in his progress to get ready for the season.”

“That was pretty cool,” said right tackle Ereck Flowers. “I didn’t really notice what he did until I watched the replay. He has really good vision. It was a good cutback. Some running backs will keep pushing forward. Knowing he can break free like that at any time is great. It makes your job easier.”

Of course, some people were buzzing louder than others.

“It’s just a run,” Manning said. “Let’s not go berserk yet. It was a good run. The offensive line blocked things well, he had a good cutback. It was a good play.” Manning also said it was, “a nice run to get things started. Hopefully more to come.”

Cleveland Browns defenders Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Kirksey, Damarious Randall and Denzel Ward probably all thought they had a shot at Barkley, but he either ran by or around all of them.

“You’re just so locked in the moment and you’re just living in the moment that you really don’t even notice what’s going on in your head,” Barkley said. “But the offensive line did a great job with blocking up front, creating space. Evan (Engram) made an unbelievable block there, and I was able to create some space and get a big gain.”

Barkley was asked how satisfying it was to make such a memorable first impression.

“I think it was more satisfying to me just because of the scenario,” he said. “We were backed up tight, to be able to get us out running from, I think we were on the (13)-yard line, and then to break out a 40-yard run really (helped) our offense out, and we had a great drive. We just got to find a way to finish it. It was more exciting in that it was helping the team out, we were getting a drive started, starting off quick, more than making a first impression.”

The Giants concluded the drive with Aldrick Rosas’ 42-yard field goal.

The game featured the first and second overall choices of the 2018 draft. Browns backup quarterback Baker Mayfield, taken No. 1, had an impressive debut, completing 11 of 20 passes for 212 yards, including touchdowns of 10 yards to tight end David Njoku (who scored twice) and 54 yards to Antonio Calloway.

Barkley and the Giants’ offensive starters played only two series, but he was going to be heavily scrutinized no matter what he did.

“It was kind of weird,” Barkley said. “I was talking to a lot of guys there. For some reason I didn’t get nervous, I didn’t really get anxious. It was kind of a weird feeling. They said it would probably hit me when the national anthem goes off, but I kind of just got locked in so quick, I just have been preparing for this moment for my whole life and being able to play in the NFL, and I didn’t want any other thing to ruin it. If I had broken a long run, no, I just wanted to go out there and enjoy, and have fun, and take advantage of every rep and every opportunity I got.

“I expected to be nervous because since high school on, I was nervous in high school – not nervous, I think anxious is the word, because nervous is kind of like you’re scared. I just needed that first hit, I was just so ready for that moment, it was kind of weird. One of the coaches told me that he said it’s going to get worse, don’t worry, so definitely preparing for that. Just excited to live my life and live the dream I planned.”

For Giants fans eager to see both a productive rushing attack and winner, that first run was pretty dreamy, too.

The Giants were backed up on their own 13-yard line when Barkley took a handoff from Eli Manning, took a step forward but found the middle clogged, broke to his right and scampered 39 yards – longer than all but two of the team’s 394 rushing attempts in the 2017 season.

The big beginning didn’t catalyze the Giants to victory – they lost to the Cleveland Browns in MetLife Stadium, 20-10 – but the postgame buzz in the Giants’ locker room centered on Barkley, who ran for a game-high 43 yards on five carries.

“I loved his first run,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “If only they all could be like that. You could see, it wasn’t too big for him. He’s probably played before bigger crowds at Penn State. It really wasn’t too big for him, and I think he took the next step in his progress to get ready for the season.”

“That was pretty cool,” said right tackle Ereck Flowers. “I didn’t really notice what he did until I watched the replay. He has really good vision. It was a good cutback. Some running backs will keep pushing forward. Knowing he can break free like that at any time is great. It makes your job easier.”

Of course, some people were buzzing louder than others.

“It’s just a run,” Manning said. “Let’s not go berserk yet. It was a good run. The offensive line blocked things well, he had a good cutback. It was a good play.” Manning also said it was, “a nice run to get things started. Hopefully more to come.”

Cleveland Browns defenders Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Kirksey, Damarious Randall and Denzel Ward probably all thought they had a shot at Barkley, but he either ran by or around all of them.

“You’re just so locked in the moment and you’re just living in the moment that you really don’t even notice what’s going on in your head,” Barkley said. “But the offensive line did a great job with blocking up front, creating space. Evan (Engram) made an unbelievable block there, and I was able to create some space and get a big gain.”

Barkley was asked how satisfying it was to make such a memorable first impression.

“I think it was more satisfying to me just because of the scenario,” he said. “We were backed up tight, to be able to get us out running from, I think we were on the (13)-yard line, and then to break out a 40-yard run really (helped) our offense out, and we had a great drive. We just got to find a way to finish it. It was more exciting in that it was helping the team out, we were getting a drive started, starting off quick, more than making a first impression.”

The Giants concluded the drive with Aldrick Rosas’ 42-yard field goal.

The game featured the first and second overall choices of the 2018 draft. Browns backup quarterback Baker Mayfield, taken No. 1, had an impressive debut, completing 11 of 20 passes for 212 yards, including touchdowns of 10 yards to tight end David Njoku (who scored twice) and 54 yards to Antonio Calloway.

Barkley and the Giants’ offensive starters played only two series, but he was going to be heavily scrutinized no matter what he did.

“It was kind of weird,” Barkley said. “I was talking to a lot of guys there. For some reason I didn’t get nervous, I didn’t really get anxious. It was kind of a weird feeling. They said it would probably hit me when the national anthem goes off, but I kind of just got locked in so quick, I just have been preparing for this moment for my whole life and being able to play in the NFL, and I didn’t want any other thing to ruin it. If I had broken a long run, no, I just wanted to go out there and enjoy, and have fun, and take advantage of every rep and every opportunity I got.

“I expected to be nervous because since high school on, I was nervous in high school – not nervous, I think anxious is the word, because nervous is kind of like you’re scared. I just needed that first hit, I was just so ready for that moment, it was kind of weird. One of the coaches told me that he said it’s going to get worse, don’t worry, so definitely preparing for that. Just excited to live my life and live the dream I planned.”

For Giants fans eager to see both a productive rushing attack and winner, that first run was pretty dreamy, too.

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