Saquon Barkley named most anticipated return in 2021
The Giants offense will have several new faces in the huddle this season after Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph and John Ross were added in free agency and Kadarius Toney was selected in the first round of the draft.
But perhaps the biggest addition to the offense in 2021 is the return of running back Saquon Barkley, who suffered a torn ACL in the first half of the team's Week 2 game against the Chicago Bears last year.
NFL.com contributing columnist Adam Schein ranked his top nine players he can't wait to watch return to the field following injuries suffered in 2020, and the Giants' star running back landed at the very top of the list.
As Schein writes, "I miss Saquon's dynamic skill set. I miss the speed. I miss the cuts. I miss the hands. Barkley had 91 catches as a rookie. It feels like a lifetime ago. The game is just better when Barkley is doing mind-bending stuff. Kids love him. Adults fawn over him. He's a marketing dream in Market No. 1.
Barkley wouldn't offer a firm timetable for return last month, but the man's beach training vids have me champing at the bit. I can't wait to watch a healthy Barkley again. I'm putting him first on this list because of how electric he was -- and how long it's been since we've witnessed that electricity."
Barkley took home the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award after leading the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage (1,307 rushing, 721 receiving) to go with 15 total touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,003 rushing yards in 13 games in 2019, becoming the first player in franchise history to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Last year, 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 later this month.
Earlier this summer, Pro Football Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson listed Barkley among the NFL's top running backs in 2021.
View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
21 Questions: Top training camp competitions
John Schmeelk: There are two legitimate answers – edge rusher because of the sheer number of players at the position and the offensive line.
There are also a lot of compelling story lines on the edge, such as Lorenzo Carter trying to return from his Achilles injury, Oshane Ximines returning from a shoulder injury entering his critical third season, veteran free agents such as Ifeadi Odenigbo and rookies Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith. It is essential for the Giants to get strong production from that group if they want to be an elite defense.
But the primary focus should be on the right side of the offensive line because the effectiveness of this group impacts every aspect of the offense. A leaky offensive line will also make the evaluation of Daniel Jones a little more difficult. It would be beneficial for the organization to see Jones under optimal conditions to see how effective he can be over the long term. If he is under constant pressure all season there could be "what if" questions left unanswered at the end of the year, which nobody wants with Jones entering his fourth season.
There are fun position battles within the unit, too. Will Hernandez has not played right guard since high school. If Shane Lemieux isn't the left guard, he could be called on to play on the right side, but he didn't take any snaps there in college, either (but had 13 snaps there as a rookie). And there are veterans in the mix, including Zach Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, Chade Slade, and Kenny Wiggins who will try to hold off 2020 undrafted free agent Kyle Murphy and 2021 undrafted free agent Jake Burton.
The competition at right tackle is even more crucial and features two very different players. There's Matt Peart, a second year player from UConn with just 152 offensive snaps last year (104 of which came at right tackle). He started all 48 games he played in for the Huskies, with his final two years coming as a starter at right tackle. He checks every physical box with 36 5/8-inch arms and athleticism, but the flashes he showed as a rookie need to become consistent production. His competition is Nate Solder, who has been in the league for 10 years, but not played right tackle since his rookie season. He has always been a starter and will provide a strong baseline to challenge Peart.
View photos of the Giants' roster as it currently stands.