LOS ANGELES – Saquon Barkley is first and always a team player, which is why he wants to do more to help the Giants win some games.
Barkley is not having the year he envisioned after missing almost all of the 2020 season because of the torn ACL he suffered in Week 2. A freakish ankle injury sustained in Dallas forced him to sit out four games. Barkley is second on the team with 315 rushing yards. His 3.8-yard average is 1.2 yards less than it was when he was Rookie of the Year in 2018. Barkley is third on the team with 30 receptions, but they have gained an average of just 6.4 yards.
But Barkley – and the 4-8 Giants – have five games to craft a successful ending to the season, beginning Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers in SoFi Stadium.
"Individually, obviously, I would love to be doing a lot more for my team, meaning being more productive, and you've got to take accountability," Barkley said after practice yesterday at the University of Arizona. "You've got to look yourself in the mirror and go back, watch film and see what you can do better, see what you did good, take it and grow from it."
View photos from practice at the University of Arizona as the Giants prepare for their matchup against the Chargers.
Barkley has played in three games since returning to the field. He rushed for 120 yards and caught 16 passes against Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Miami. Barkley did not secure two passes he thought he should have against the Dolphins.
"Obviously, these last couple games haven't been playing as well as I would like to play, especially last week with a couple of drops and stuff like that," Barkley said. "You can't let that slow you down. My mindset is once I get to practice, get on the Jugs (machine), catch as many balls as I can and practice to make sure I catch every ball that I can. The balls that I do drop, go back and work on that. When it's in the run game, make sure I get my footwork right so I can see it better, set up the runs better, put myself in the best position I can to be successful to my team."
Barkley was critical of his play in the Giants' 20-9 loss to the Dolphins.
"I had two drops," he said. "Two balls that hit my hand and I didn't come up with the play there. I felt like as the game went on, I got better in the run game. I've just got to continue to take what's there. Whatever the defense gives me or whatever opportunity I have, take what's there and when big plays are there to be made, like a catch in the flat or an under against a linebacker, I've got to make those plays."
If the ankle bothers him, Barkley will not admit it. It was heavily taped for practice Thursday, but not yesterday. The reason had nothing to do with pain.
"Just pads," he said. "When we have shells on, obviously it's more just to protect it. When you have pads, it's the nature of football, you get a little more aggressive. You get a little more physical. Sometimes bodies fall and just in case someone did fall, it gives a little extra support."
Barkley said, "I feel good" and answered "no" when asked if the ankle is hindering him.
"It's like I said before when I first came back, it's nagging," he said. "If you ever know anyone that had an ankle sprain and you go on through the season with it, it just nags here and there. That's not the reason – I'm not going to make excuses why I haven't been performing at a high level. I don't believe that's the reason."
Barkley believes his and the team's fortunes can improve quickly and substantially.
"Had a great week of practice, not only myself, but as a team and especially on the offensive side of the ball," he said. "Ready to go out there on Sunday against a really good Chargers defense and a really good Chargers team."
Truth be told, Los Angeles plays impressively in several facets of football, but the run defense is not one of them. The Chargers are ranked 31st in the NFL, allowing 141.2 yards a game Only the Houston Texans have given up more.
"It doesn't mean anything," Barkley said. "You can't look at it that way. Whatever they're ranked, it's the NFL. They get paid a lot of money over there. Those coaches get paid a lot of money over there, too. Obviously, we feel like we have a great game plan. Obviously, they're going to do some different things that we're going to have to adjust to. We've got to come ready. We can't come with the mindset that, 'Oh, they've been struggling in the run game, so this should be a cakewalk.' No. Obviously, we know we have to establish the run game and that starts by us, that starts by establishing the line of scrimmage, dominating the line of scrimmage and me making the right reads and me finishing the runs and getting vertical and making plays when the plays are needed to be made."
If he does, it will be a big boost for both Barkley and the Giants.
*The Chargers have won the last four and five of the last six games in the series dating back to 1995. They lead the series, 7-5.
The teams last met on Oct. 8, 2017, an infamous 27-22 loss for the Giants in which wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr., Dwayne Harris, and Brandon Marshall suffered season-ending injuries. They last faced each other on the west coast in San Diego on Dec. 8, 2013, when the Chargers cruised to a 37-14 victory. The Chargers' active winning streak against the Giants includes victories in 2005 and 2009.