Only 3.6 yards per carry (career minimum), 3.1 receptions per game and able to record the fewest touchdowns per game in his career.
Who did I just describe to you? Did I describe David Johnson from 2018, fresh from a dislocated wrist that cost him much of the 2017 season? Or did I describe 2021 Saquon Barkley, fresh from a ripped ACL that forced him to miss out on much of the 2020 season?
If I hadn’t given the exact numbers, it would have been difficult to distinguish these two players from each other. Both were Pro-Bowl halfbacks who led the league in meters from the fray at the beginning of their career. They both accomplished that feat despite playing on teams below 0,500, and both don’t seem to reach levels similar to what they achieved prior to their injuries.
While there are several differences between the two, Barkley appears to be following the same career path Johnson was forced to follow – one of great promise, cut short by a devastating injury.
Now, the Barkley fans among you might say something like “Hey, he’s still young! Plus, he’s playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, clown! “
And it is true. But guess what, Johnson also played behind a terrible line in 2018. That season, the Cardinals’ offensive line ranked 25th in regulated line yards (4.0). So far in 2021, the Giants offensive line is in 29th place (3.79). So, yes, the Giants O-line played worse than the Cardinals’ line in 2018. However, Johnson was also playing on a more inept attack. The 2018 Cardinals were at the bottom of the table for yards passed per game, total yards per game, and points per game. There was nothing they could do on offense and Johnson certainly didn’t help. Josh Rosen’s ineptitude as a quarterback almost certainly played a big part in Johnson’s insignificant line of stats. You can frame Daniel Jones as much as you want, but he’s definitely better than Rosen.
As for the youth, it is true that Barkley (24) is much younger than Johnson in 2018 (27). Since a first of the half is widely considered to be between 27 and 28, which should mean there’s no reason to worry. However, other players who have suffered similar injuries at similar ages to Barkley’s show that even young athletes can struggle to get back into shape.
To take Ickey Woods For instance. In 1988, Woods’ rookie season, he hit 15 running touchdowns and led the league in yards for carry. It has become a fan favorite of Cincy due to her iconic Ickey Shuffle touchdown dance. The following season, at the tender age of 23, Woods suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the second game of the season (sounds familiar) and it was never the same.
There are many other backs that got hurt before, or at the very beginning, of their heights and failed to get back into shape, either due to lack of production or annoying injury issues, such as Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson, Maurice Jones – Drew, Arian Foster, Mercury Morris, to some extent Christian McCaffrey (of course, he looks good when he’s healthy, but he’s not often) and, of course, David Johnson.
Barkley’s age makes it slightly less likely that his anterior cruciate ligament injury from last season will stand in the way of the rest of his career. However, he is not immune, and his appearance in 2021 has not allayed many people’s concerns. Sure, he had flashy moments like hers taken with one hand last Sunday, but it definitely didn’t seem as explosive or elusive as it did in its first two seasons. Also, an ACL injury isn’t exactly an injury from which running backs are known to recover well.
I hope Barkley breaks the trend and returns to his 2018-2019 form when he scored an average of 1,734.5 yards from the scrimmage. However, I fear that Barkley’s best days may already be behind him. Sure, designing a great quarterback and building the offensive line might help, but the Giants can’t build a capable team around Barkley in two or three years. When the Giants are ready to compete again, Barkley may have faced nagging injuries for so long that he’s just a shell of himself. perhaps with Gettelman is probably gone next season from running the Giants, they can rebuild faster, but it’s still a possibility. There is hope for Giants fans, perhaps he will be mistaken for DeAndre Hopkins (or the equivalent of Hopkins) in a few years.