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Giants Now: Ranking top running backs in 2021

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LaDainian Tomlinson lists Saquon Barkley among top RBs

Saquon Barkley was one of the league's most dynamic players in his first two seasons with the Giants.

While a torn ACL caused him to miss all but five quarters of the 2020 campaign, one Hall of Famer believes Barkley will return to form this coming season and once again be one of the NFL's top ball carriers.

Former running back and NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson recently ranked his top five running backs in the NFL, and the Giants' star back landed at No. 4.

"Listen, this guy here is arguably the most talented running back, the most explosive running back in the National Football League," Tomlinson said about Barkley. "But he's coming off an ACL injury that he had repaired, and also had his meniscus repaired. I believe it's going to be slow billing in the beginning for Saquon Barkley. But without question, this man is a home run threat every time he touches the football. He's going to add a certain dimension to that offense that they didn't have last year."

Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards and added 721 receiving yards in his debut season on his way to being named the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He then ran for 1,003 yards in 2019 to become the first player in Giants history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.

In one of his most recent games on December 22, 2019, Barkley set a franchise record with 279 yards from scrimmage (189 rushing and 90 receiving) in an overtime victory at Washington. Barkley's 279 yards were the highest total by any player in the NFL that season.

Barkley, Carolina's Christian McCaffrey and New Orleans' Alvin Kamara were the only NFL players who totaled more than 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in 2018-19. McCaffrey landed at No. 5 on Tomlinson's list while Kamara came in at No. 3.

In 2020, Barkley was limited to two games, 19 rushing attempts for 34 yards and six receptions for 60 yards. He underwent surgery on Oct. 30 and has been rehabbing with the goal of being ready to join his teammates for the start of training camp in late July.

The Giants picked up Barkley's fifth-year option earlier this offseason, meaning the running back is under contract through the conclusion of the 2022 season.

College DC Jim Knowles talks Rodarius Williams, Eli Manning-Daniel Jones comparisons

Rodarius Williams is just the tip of the iceberg of Jim Knowles' familiarity with the Giants organization.

Knowles knows it better than your typical Oklahoma State defensive coordinator, having coached Big Blue's sixth-round pick and gone against Daniel Jones and Eli Manning in practice during his previous posts at Duke and Ole Miss. Knowles, who has 30 years of college coaching experience, recently peeled back the layers on “Big Blue Kickoff Live” on Giants.com.

First up was Williams, or "Lee Lee" as he is called by those who know him. Knowles joined the Oklahoma State coaching staff in 2018, the year after Williams began his streak of 48 consecutive starts, which set the program record.

"Lee Lee is a guy who's going to show up every day for work," Knowles said of Williams, whose middle name is Lee and was given the nickname by his aunt. "That ability to maintain and be durable in our sport is a big deal. He fights through injuries. He seems to be a guy who handles the contact well and the aggressiveness of the game. He never complains. He's really the kind of player that you want to have on your team because you can count on him."

While Williams' consecutive starts streak is impressive, it's what he did in between them that caught the attention of the Giants. Williams' 31 career pass breakups rank sixth in school history and were fourth among FBS players active in 2020.

His vision, skills, and 6-foot, 195-pound frame certainly helped him rack up the stats. But, according to Knowles, something else sets him apart: He doesn't flinch.

"That happens to a lot of DBs -- where they're in great position, but at the end of the route, there's that little bit of flinch, that trip, that slip," Knowles said. "He has the ability to play through the hands to the end of the play. He has a very calm demeanor, and that's what you want out of a corner. He's very calm, very confident, never loses his composure. When you have a guy like that who has the skill but he [also] has that intensity and focus to finish the play, I think you've got a good player."

Age may play a factor in that.

Williams turns 25 on Sept. 12, the day the Giants open the 2021 season at home against the Denver Broncos. For reference, Williams is older than a lot of the players in the Giants' past three draft classes and a few in the previous four, including Saquon Barkley. He is also older than his brother, Andraez "Greedy" Williams (another nickname given to him by an aunt), who was a second-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2019.

"His maturity is a huge asset," Knowles said. "He's a little bit older than a normal rookie. It's definitely a plus because he has been through a lot in his life. He's overcome a lot personally, and I have seen his growth. I knew he had the talent from the beginning, but I have seen his growth as a mature young man who understands life and what it takes to succeed and the work that needs to go in. That lightbulb went on, so you're getting a guy who is ready-made and prepared to handle being a professional."

Inside the Film Room: Rodarius Williams shows confidence, good technique

Check out the video below to watch two-time Super Bowl champion David Diehl and Bob Papa break down the film of sixth-round pick Rodarius Williams.

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