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Saquon's dominance overshadowed by team's ground game struggles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It is one of the noticeable inconsistencies of both the Giants' and the NFL seasons.

Running back Saquon Barkley is perhaps the NFL's most celebrated rookie. He is seventh in the league with 519 rushing yards, and he has an impressive 4.7-yard per-carry average. But the Giants are 31st in the league with an average of 77.9 yards a game.

"As a running back, you hold responsibility for that," Barkley said. "You want to be definitely up there in the league and in the ranks, and that's something we can improve on as a team, that's something that we're going to have to challenge ourselves to do in the second half of the season."

Several reasons underlie the difference between Barkley's individual ranking and that of the team. One is that Barkley basically is the Giants' rushing attack. The team's No. 2 rusher is Wayne Gallman, with 48 yards. The 471-yard difference between the Giants' two-leading ground-gainers is the league's fifth-largest.

The offensive line has struggled at times to control the line of scrimmage. In the loss to Washington on Sunday, Barkley ran for 38 yards on 13 carries, a 2.9-yard average. Gallman lost a yard on his only attempt. Of the Giants' 14 rushes, seven gained no more than one yard, and the longest run went for nine yards.

The rushing attack has been inconsistent. Barkley has gained 266 yards on seven rushing attempts (38-yard average) and 253 on his other 104 carries (2.4-yard average).

Perhaps most significantly, the Giants have been more adept at advancing the ball through the air, and Barkley has been a big part of that. The team is 12th in the league with an average of 275.4 yards a game. Barkley is second on the team with 58 receptions (three fewer than Odell Beckham, Jr.) and has already shattered the previous team record for receptions by a rookie running back (37 by Bobby Duhon in 1968).

Barkley is second in the NFL with 1,016 yards from scrimmage (135 behind the Ram's Todd Gurley). He has scored seven touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving). 

But Barkley, the second overall selection in this year's NFL Draft, is clearly not satisfied.

The Giants have their bye this week, but when Barkley was asked how he'll approach his time off, he seemed already focused on the season's final eight games, beginning Nov. 12 in San Francisco.

"Go back, watch film on yourself, see what you can do better from the first half of the season, see the things you did well, try and improve overall in your game," Barkley said. "Take a little bit of time off to just decompress from football, but also keep aware that you can't take too much time off because you've still got to keep your body in shape for another eight games, and come back ready to work. 

"I'm still learning, still trying to figure out what I can do as a player, what type of player I can be. Every day, every time I step out on the field, I'm learning. I'm learning, trying to get better every single day, the good things I do and the things I need to improve on. Definitely just trying to become just an overall better player."

Barkley is confident he will be just as strong at the end of the season as he was at the beginning (when he ran for 106 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown, in his debut vs. Jacksonville).

"I think the rookie wall is all in your mind, to be completely honest," Barkley said. "There's going to be wear and tear on your body, that's just the nature of the sport, no matter if you're a rookie or if you're 10 years deep in the league. My mindset is just staying in it every single day, staying positive every single day, continue to work every single day and get better."

*The Giants practiced today and will have one more workout tomorrow before scattering for the bye week.

"My message (to the players) will be private," coach Pat Shurmur said, "but generally in this situation, it's really time away not time off, the importance of working here is working on fundamentals, I think it's important they stay in shape. These are just general thoughts, certainly, and I think it's important that everybody does some self-evaluation of ways they can get better for the last half of the season. And then stay out of trouble."

*The Giants waived defensive back Mike Jordan, one of six players they signed on Sept. 2. Jordan played on special teams in two games and was inactive for the other six.

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