A former two-time Super Bowl winner with the Giants thinks Saquon Barkley could be in for a big year for ‘Big Blue’ but cautions for there to be reasonable expectations for the player.
Ottis Anderson, still affectionately known by fans as “O.J” had a monstrous rookie season of his own, rushing for 1,605 yards and averaging over 100 yards per game with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979. Selected eighth overall in the 1979 NFL Draft, Anderson credits a top-notch offensive line at the time for his success.
Barkley was taken by the Giants No. 2 overall in April’s NFL Draft and is being hyped as the best running back to come out of college this millennium. The former Penn State running back was being bantered about this winter as the likely top pick in the draft and his performance at the NFL Combine certainly didn’t deter that narrative. He’s an athletic freak who is the complete running back.
Saquon Barkley shares his thoughts on being selected by the Giants with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Asked if Barkley can top 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie, Anderson said “Absolutely, I don’t see why not. Again on paper, his skill set is superior to a lot of the rookies.”
“If the offensive line holds up, he can do some big things,” Anderson told MSGNetworks.com.
But that doesn’t mean that Anderson doesn’t think that all the hype around Barkley needs to come with a dose of reality. Unlike Anderson’s rookie year team, the Giants are from being a finished product along the offensive line.
While the addition of left tackle Nate Solder and guards Patrick Omameh and Will Hernandez will help the line improve, they aren’t going to magically turn around one of the worst units in the league last year. That will take time.
Signed as a free agent in the offseason, offensive lineman Nate Solder talks to Bob Papa and Shaun O'Hara about what he's looking to add to Big Blue's offensive line.
That process might mean that Barkley’s numbers won’t be as gaudy as recent running backs who have made splashes over the past couple of years.
“I think you have to temper expectations,” he said. “Everyone is basing what he can do in the NFL on what [Ezekiel] Elliott and [Kareem] Hunt who had a pretty decent year as a rookie,” Anderson said. “Again, you’re talking about teams that had pretty experienced lines in front of them.”
Anderson finished his NFL career with 10,273 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry over his 14 seasons in the NFL. He was twice named to the Pro Bowl during that stretch.
Anderson is remembered fondly in the annals of Giants history. He was named the league’s comeback player of the year in 1989 and won the MVP of Super Bowl XXV.
While Anderson downplays some of the hype, realizing that Barkley will face a tough task this rookie season on a team that was 3-13 a year ago, the former Giants great also sees a fantastic potential for the former Heisman candidate out of Happy Valley.
“When you look at what he did on college, that’s what you’re basing it on,” he said. “When you have running backs who have had successful years, they’ve had a very experienced offensive line as well as a good receiving corps, you have both the ingredients to be successful, Anderson said.
“What he does have is a guy like Odell Beckham that can stretch the field and can give him the opportunity to take the ball out of the backfield,” he said. “The Giants are rebuilding the offensive line which means that there are going to be some nightmares in some of the games where he’s not going to be as successful. Overall, I think he’s going to have a very productive year.”