NFL

Why Saquon Barkley Can Be an MVP Without Doing Anything Special

The New York Giants are a long way from being considered playoff contenders in the upcoming NFL season. They’re suffering the consequences of too many poor personnel decisions in a short span. However, plucking Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones from the first rounds of consecutive NFL drafts was a good start in rebuilding.

The Giants stumbled to 5-11 and 4-12 records in two seasons under Pat Shurmur, but the good news for new head coach Joe Judge is that the team still plays in the worst division in the NFL.

There’s plenty for the New York Giants to fix

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The New York Giants used seven of their 10 draft picks in April on defensive players. Coupled with a class of free-agent signings short on household names but nevertheless experienced, it gives Joe Judge a reason to be optimistic that the league’s third-worst scoring defense in 2019 can make a significantly better showing this time around.

Of course, one obvious way to help the defense is to limit the amount of time it spends on the field. Forcing more three-and-outs would be good, but getting more sustained drives out of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones and the rest of a middle-of-the-pack offense would also help.

To that end, controlling the clock by means of running the ball would be helpful. Fortunately for the Giants, they have just the man to do that. Running back Saquon Barkley was the best rookie in the league in 2018 and eked out 1,003 yards on the ground last season despite an early-season ankle injury that caused him to miss three games.

Barkley was a force for Penn State and made an impressive transition as an NFL rookie by rushing for 1,307 yards and also catching 91 passes. He’s a hard-nosed runner between the tackles with shifty moves to get outside. Seeing all 230 pounds of him come around the edge with the ball has to rate as close to a cornerback’s worst nightmare.

One analyst says Saquon Barkley is future MVP material

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Getting to .500 this season would be a nice sign of progress for the New York Giants, who haven’t won a division title since 2011. It’s not entirely out of the question either since they get two shots apiece at the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles. They would be playing with house money if they managed to sweep the Redskins and split with their other two NFC East rivals.

Given the improvements the Giants think they’ve made on defense, it wouldn’t take a Herculean effort by running back Saquon Barkley for New York to make a run at an 8-8 mark.

And though he wasn’t speaking specifically about this season, one NFL analyst says Barkley is the sort of player who would get real MVP consideration just for getting the team above .500. After all, he’s already had a season in which he eclipsed 2,000 yards of total offense, so doing that for a team that goes 9-7 instead of 5-11 would be an attention-getter.

“He had 91 receptions and a bunch of yards rushing as a rookie,” said Steve Mariucci of the NFL Network. “He’s going to go over 2,000 yards again. He’s got a chance. If that team can get better and have a winning season, Saquon Barkley.”

Running backs are rarely MVPs anymore, but …

Shawn Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks and LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers were MVPs back-to-back beginning in 2005. Since then, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson in 2012 has been the only running back to earn the award.

Steve Mariucci’s premise regarding Saquon Barkley’s feasibility as an MVP candidate is that most of the recent running backs to have the award have put up a single outlandish number/ or instance, Barry Sanders ran for 2,053 yards in 1997 but scored just eight touchdowns overall.

Marshall Faulk of the 2000 Los Angeles Rams and Peterson in 2012 played on 10-6 teams. Sanders’ Detroit Lions were only 9-7 in his big season.

If Barkley gets the Giants above .500 with 1,500 rushing yards and a bunch of receptions – hardly a reach for him — he’d certainly have to be in the MVP conversation.