Although there are still some who believe that the Giants whiffed by selecting a running back No. 2 overall in the draft, Saquon Barkley proved to be much more than just a running back.
By the end of his rookie season, the former Penn State star was doing it all--running, blocking and receiving. What's more, he was doing it all at a high level, his first half of the season rushing yards often coming behind an inconsistent offensive line.
But if there was one thing that Barkley didn't show as much (through no fault of his own) was his ability to dominate linebackers in space. Shortly after he was drafted, Barkley dazzled media members at the OTAs and spring minicamps with his ability to make linebackers look foolish in coverage.
When looking at Barkley's receptions during the season, most of his pass routes were of the short distance variety as he was the recipient of check downs, a trend that nullified a strength.
As the Giants try to figure out whether to create more of a 1-2 punch at running back to help keep Barkley fresh, the 22-year-old said he's not afraid of a heavy workload, especially in the ground game.
"I don’t think any number is too high for me. I know I sound like a broken record, but you will hear this for as long as I am in the NFL, as long as I take care of my body, my body will take care of me," he said last month.
"Whether it is 350 touches, 400 touches--whatever I have to do to have this team compete for a championship, I am going to do."
The revamped offensive line certainly will help things, though he admits that will take a little getting used to, especially considering two of the projected starters--tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers--probably won't practice until training camp.
"As a running back, it is just getting the feel. Running is like an art. Whether it is an inside zone, outside, whatever kind of run it is, it is just a feel for each other," Barkley said.
"Understanding, how can I set them up and what kind of blocking do they like to do. Just adding those guys who are pros and have done it at a high level helps, but to be able to have them here now and to be able to have them mesh and start it off early, it is going to help when the season comes along."
The other challenge Barkley will face is that he will now likely draw a lot of extra attention on the offense, especially now that Odell Beckham Jr is no longer around to bring double coverage.
With teams having had a full off-season to study the Giants offense under Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula, what wrinkles will they include to ensure that Barkley still gets his opportunities, especially in the passing game?