EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley has lost patience for outsiders who question his running style. Or, in his words, he is "fed up."
The Giants' fifth year back has been questioned for sometimes running to the side or taking a handoff and then hesitating before pushing his way forward. Some of that that is due to the paucity of defined holes resulting from the team's issues on the offensive line. Barkley has often searched in vain for daylight.
Coach Brian Daboll, reviewing the running backs' performance a day after the preseason opener last week in New England, said of Barkley's four-carry outing, "I thought he hit the ball downhill, didn't dance."
Barkley was asked if there has "been a conscious effort for you to get north and south and get the ball upfield?" That lit a fuse on what has clearly been a simmering issue for Barkley.
"No. To be honest, that's just part of my game," he said. "As a running back, understanding the scheme. Understanding what I got to do. This is probably the last time I'm going to speak on this, I know people want to say, 'Dancing and he don't get north and south.' But I'm not just going to run into any of my linemen's back. That's not how I play the game. That's how I've been playing since I was eight years old. I've been playing this position for a very long time, and by no means am I the perfect running back, and I still got so much work to do.
"But I know that's been the conversation or been a thought or been a thing out there that's said about me it, 'He don't know what he's doing. He's just dancing back there.' I'm really kind of fed up with people who never played a position try to speak on how I run a position. We call them all pros with clickers in their hand. Running back is a tough position, but it's easy to be there and watch football and watch on T.V. or even watch on film and stop the clicker and say, 'Oh, he should've made that cut.' There's a lot of things that go into making that cut. There's a lot of things like your shoulders being square. There's a lot of things that have an impact on your vision. So, but the coaches have to make a point of emphasis a running style that we have as a team and a mentality that we have as a team. And like I said, I'm going to do whatever coach wants me to do. And that's been my focus, trying to be the best running back I can for this team."
Barkley said Daboll and the offensive coaches do not instruct him to refrain from dancing.
"When he says, 'Get north and south,' he's talking about the physicality, me trusting myself, me getting downhill," Barkley said. "But when people try to make it the north and south, like they're trying to – not coach in particular – but people are trying to use that as an example of saying that I'm back there like I'm dancing. Like dancing is stuff that you do in high school football – in little league football where you run this way, you run that way. That's not my thought process. If I'm making a run back in the day, and someone breaks free and is in my face, I'm not just going to run right at him. I'm going to try to get back to the line of scrimmage. That's part of my craft. And that's part of my game. But like I said with coach, that's kind of an emphasis meaning, 'Alright, we want to get more physical. We want to get more downhill.'"
Barkley has looked strong and quick throughout camp and in his brief stint against the Patriots. He is almost two years removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL and he shows no residual effects from the sprained ankle that cost him three games last season.
When Barkley played last week, it was his first appearance in a preseason game since his 2018 rookie season. Last year, he was held out of the three preseason games as a precaution. The sole focus was to get Barkley to the regular season.
Daboll said the starters will see action when the Giants host Cincinnati Sunday night in the second preseason game and Barkley is ready to run the ball.
"The way I feel different (from last year) is I can just go out there and practice," Barkley said. "I can go out there and work on my craft. Last year, it was kind of more of a battle of get to Sunday. That's a big difference. I couldn't do camp. And then during the week once I started feeling good again, I had a thing where I stepped on someone's foot against Dallas, and you got to grind, you got to grind and try to get to Sunday. Now, I can come out and work on my craft and get better every single day. That's the biggest difference. And practice makes perfect. I'm a big believer in that. You'll never be perfect. My game will never be perfect, but that's what I'm going to shoot for. And the only way you can do that is by practicing and getting reps in."
For the first time in a while, Barkley feels like the back who was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and ran for 1,307 yards in his debut season.
"I kind of have that confidence back that anytime I touch the ball that I can take it to the house," Barkley said. "Whether it's blocked up, catch the defense lacking, I feel like I can do that. And that comes just with practice. Practice makes perfect. Get the reps in. Sharpen yourself. Work on your craft."
View the best photos from Thursday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
*Quarterback Daniel Jones was asked to assess his camp performance.
"I think like anyone, I've had good days and bad days, and a lot to continue to work on throughout it," he said. "But I feel like I've made progress and learned a lot in this system and will continue to do so. Continue to improve and that's always the goal."
*Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka called plays from the coaches' booth in New England. It was the first time in Jones' four years the team's play-caller was not on the sideline.
"It was good," Jones said. "I thought it was really smooth. We communicated through the game, and obviously he's communicating with the coaches on the sideline and everyone's talking. So, I thought it went well, the operation, I thought we were good in and out of the huddle and lining up running plays and executing."
*Wide receiver Kenny Golladay arguably had his most active day of camp, with his catch of a Jones pass for about 40 yards the most obvious highlight.
"I thought he made some plays today," Jones said. "I thought we spread the ball around well, and obviously, he had the deep shot he made a nice adjustment on, a big play there. I think he's had a good camp, and we'll keep working with him."
*Best Quote of Camp No. 1: Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was asked what he thought of the insinuation that he blitzed a lot for a preseason game last week in New England.
"We're on to Cincinnati," quipped Martindale, echoing Bill Belichick's famous line in 2014 after a blowout loss in Kansas City and before a game against the Bengals.
Does an unwritten rule exist about preseason blitzing?
"If it's unwritten, I don't know," Martindale said. "We're on to Cincinnati."
* Best Quote of Camp No. 2: Barkley, on what he's learned about backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor: "The one thing I learned about Tyrod, this might sound so weird, but he smells good, man. I tell him all the time, we joke around, and say he's the smoothest man in football. No matter what, before practice, after practice, before workout, after workout, he doesn't tell me his secret. He won't let me know what he's putting on. But he's a smooth cat."
Barkley's assessment about Taylor's smelling good was supported by Jones.
"He normally does," Jones said. "(Saquon's) not lying."
*Perhaps with an eye on the game, Barkley's workload was reduced for the second straight practice. With Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell not participating in team drills, rookie Jashaun Corbin took most of the first team reps.
"The Giants do a really good job of watching the workload, and it's kind of what it is," Barkley said. "We've been grinding there. We've been grinding, and I'm just taking it day-by-day."