Burress: Barkley key to igniting Giants’ offense

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley catches the ball as head coach Pat Shurmur, right, looks on at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on May 11.Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports (file photo)

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A former member of the New York Giants has high hopes for this year’s team due in large part to one of the newest players on the club.

Plaxico Burress spoke glowingly about rookie running back Saquon Barkley on Saturday. The 40-year-old Burress said that the second overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft could have the same effect on the current group of wideouts as Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw did for him.

“If he’s everything we’ve been seeing in college, he can absolutely create some one-on-one matchups for the guys outside,” Burress told The New York Post. “If he’s as good as predicted, I think they can have one of the most explosive offenses in football. Defenses will have to pick their poison whether they put eight men in the box to stop the run or double Odell (Beckham Jr.).”

Optimism has run rampant in New York thanks to Barkley, who rushed 217 times for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns last season with Penn State. He also caught 54 passes for 632 yards and two scores, as well as returning two kickoffs for touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3, 233-pound Barkley lit up the 2018 NFL Combine with a spectacular workout, registering a 4.40 40-yard dash, a 41-inch vertical jump and 29 reps on the bench press.

Barkley’s addition is a welcome one in the eyes of Burress, who provided the signature moment in Super Bowl XLII by catching the game-winning touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Eli Manning with 35 seconds remaining. The Giants held on for a 17-14 win over the New England Patriots.

“We had Brandon Jacobs (and) Ahmad Bradshaw, and defenses had to make a decision,” Burress said of the 2007 team. “Either you’re going to double me or put that eighth man in the box. If you put that eighth man in the box, everybody in the stadium knows where that ball is going.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Burress said. “The sky is the limit for this offense. If they can protect No. 10 (Manning) and get a running game going, they can be special.”

Burress played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Giants and New York Jets during his NFL career.

In November 2008, Burress accidentally shot himself in the right leg while at a New York City nightclub. A weapons charge led to a prison stay of nearly two years, keeping him out of the 2009 and 2010 NFL seasons.

Burress returned to play all 16 games for the Jets in 2011. He played with the Steelers in 2012 before landing on season-ending injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.