When the New York Giants selected Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, fans rejoiced that the team finally had a dynamic running back to help jump start the offense. The one negative was the team needed a quarterback as Eli Manning is 37 years old and the Giants need a quarterback of the future.
The option to pass on Sam Darnold made it possible for the New York Jets to take him with the third pick. His performance on Monday night was exceptional as he went 16-21 for 198 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The pick-six to start the game might have been one of the worst starts to a quarterback’s career, but Darnold was able to compose himself and picked apart a Lions’ defense coached by Matt Patricia, the Patriots’ old defensive coordinator.
Darnold’s performance overshadowed Barkley as the Penn State running back ran for 108 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. His 68-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter was the reason that the Giants selected him over Darnold, but he was mostly shut down by a stout Jaguars’ defense.
Barkley’s inability to consistently get big gains in the run game was mostly due to the Giants’ offensive line being unable to generate much push. Right tackle Ereck Flowers struggled mightily as Calais Campbell was in the backfield the whole game, while new addition Nate Solder was beaten numerous times in his debut game.
Barkley tried to overcome some of the deficiencies of his offensive line by bouncing to the outside, but the Jaguars had too much speed and bottled him up close to the line of scrimmage. The Giants’ play calling was very simplistic and did not allow for Barkley to fully show his set of skills.
The Jets, on the other hand, had the perfect game plan for Darnold as they ran plays with simple reads to fully utilize his set of skills. Pat Shurmur’s ability to get the most out of the Vikings’ offense helped him get the Giants’ head coaching job, but that was not shown in a poor offensive showing in the home opener.
He did not utilize Barkley enough in the passing game as he only had two receptions for 22 yards and was targeted six times. His ability in the pass game was a big reason for the Giants taking him second in the draft, but he needs to have more than two receptions to have a big impact on the passing game.
It’s too early to say the Giants should have taken Darnold with the second pick, but they need to involve Barkley a little more if they want to have a successful season.