But the premature end to the season doesn’t shake his optimism in this team or what he sees as the potential ceiling for the offense.
Barkley ran for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns this past season, all part of a rookie campaign where he topped 2,000 yards in total offense. He was the Giants’ most consistent player on the offensive side of the ball, overcoming a slow start to the year to have five 100-yard rushing games in the season’s final seven games.
Not bad numbers for a player whose selection as the second pick in the NFL Draft was widely questioned and jeered.
Barkley is undoubtedly the future of the Giants, a workhorse who also has big-play ability in head coach Pat Shurmur’s offense. If the offensive line can continue the development it showed over the second half of the season, the Giants could be even more explosive next season.
“I believe the offense can be outstanding,” Barkley said. “Coach [Shurmur] put up a thing for us the difference between the first half of the season and second half of the season and how much more balanced we were as a team.
“We had like nine more points than we did, more in the running game, passing efficiency was up, the win-and-loss column was better than it was in the first half so I believe that we have the opportunity to be a balanced team and to be able to hurt people at any moment. I think we have people on this team that you can’t blink and you blink or you fit a gap wrong or you have a coverage wrong, we’re going to take it 80 [yards].”
The Giants face an uncertain offseason with Barkley one of the few certainties on this roster.
Quarterback Eli Manning is an unknown heading into the final year of his contract with the Giants. The team could look to extend the recently turned 38-year old’s contract or they might decide to move on from the two-time Super Bowl MVP. The decision on Manning, who had a statistically solid season, could determine how the Giants’ rebuild goes.
The decision on Manning means the Giants could be a vastly different looking team as they look ahead to 2019.
There is hope though for the Giants, who after a 1-7 start to the year showed improvement in a 4-4 finish to the year.
“Honestly, I wish we can get started right away. It’s going to suck staying home watching the playoffs and knowing that you’re not in there and wanting to be in there,” Barkley said.
“That’s also going to motivate you to work harder, work extra and push yourself to be a better player for your team next year, so that next year you’re not home watching the playoffs. I would love to get going right away, but this is my first time having an NFL offseason so I want to make sure I do this right. I was just talking with my running back coach – I don’t want to take too much time off and I don’t want to not take enough time off, so try to find a balance, talk to vets. I talked to Frank Gore and he gave me some great advice with how he handles it, (as well as) Stew [Jonathan Stewart]. I’m going to try to find the right thing for my body to balance it and get me in the best shape I can to come out in April and get ready to get the season started again.”