USATSI

One of the biggest disappointments of the New York Giants’ season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers came in the form of Saquon Barkley’s debut. The star running back was held to just six yards on 15 carries in Big Blue’s 26-16 defeat, registering as a total non-factor on the ground. But a former Giants great thinks there’s even more reason to be worried about Barkley. According to Tiki Barber, New York’s current running back is all but a “liability” in pass protection and therefore may not even be an every-down back.

“Saquon Barkley might not be an every-down back,” Barber said Wednesday on “Tiki and Tierney, CBS Sports Radio/CBS Sports Network.” 

“He cannot pass protect. It is starting to become glaring … We see him diving on the ground. It’s going to be a liability. People see it now. It’s on tape, (so) it’s gonna come out … Watch him over the last couple of years. He doesn’t want to block … If you can’t block, you can’t be on the field on third down.”

Barber, a three-time Pro Bowler who spent 10 years as the Giants’ RB, may sound harsh. But the criticisms aren’t new. Former Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew called Barkley’s pass blocking “horrible” over the summer, and some indicated during training camp that the Giants’ offseason addition of Dion Lewis was partially motivated by a need to replace Barkley on third downs with a better blocker.

“Saquon Barkley is a big man who doesn’t want to hit anybody,” Barber continued. “It’s frustrating to watch. He’s a great back, but he’s frustrating to watch trying to pass protect.”

Barkley, of course, has never been afraid of contact with the ball in his hands. And that’s what might leave the Giants hopeful despite any pass-blocking concerns: When he has room to work with, there are few play-makers with as much combined speed and power. The problem, it seems, even into Year Three, is when he’s asked to use that speed and power to protect the quarterback.

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