Le’Veon Bell might be the new, big-name running back in New York but make no mistakes about it, this is Saquon Barkley’s town.
It has been Barkley’s city for a year. And it will remain that way long after Bell is gone or embroiled in another eventual holdout over his contract.
Last year, when Bell was still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and before he went through a year-long holdout to eventually sign a massive free agent contract with the New York Jets, he was largely considered the best running back in the league. There was plenty of reasons for the chatter about Bell, given his dominance on the field.
But when the New York Giants drafted Barkley with the second overall pick last year, the balance of backfield power shifted to New York’s NFC East team. Almost immediately, Barkley became an elite running back in the league.
And that hasn’t changed with Bell now across town with the Jets. Barkley is a fan of Bell and studied the three-time Pro Bowl running back extensively last offseason.
Now with Bell’s signing with the Jets isn’t any extra impetus for Barkley, who himself was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie.
“[I’m] a fan of [Bell]. I used to watch Le’Veon and when I got here, he was one of the first guys that I broke down his film,” Barkley said on Monday. “I don’t see it as extra motivation. At the end of the day, I am competing with myself and competing to be the best for my team. I really don’t care what any other back in the league does, I just care about what is happening here.”
Barkley’s 1,307 rushing yards and 721 receiving yards last year as just a rookie would be the second-highest total in Bell’s five seasons playing in the NFL. His 11 rushing touchdowns are higher than any single-season total by Bell.
It all makes for an intriguing rivalry over the coming years. The Snoopy Bowl trophy, given for the preseason meeting between the two teams just got more interesting.
(Statement made tongue-in-cheek).
Barkley, though, is the future of the position in the NFL. He’s built to be a power back and yet has the home-run ability to break big runs while being a tremendous asset in the open field as a receiver.
He’s hardworking and high-character, a reason why he can be the foundation of the Giants moving forward.
Barkley met Bell only, briefly and they’ve interacted a bit on social media. He remains a fan of the veteran running back, who changes the entire dynamic of the Jets’ offense with his addition.
But Barkley is the future with a much higher ceiling than any other running back in the league. That being said, the Giants’ running back remains a fan of Bell and is excited that he is here in New York and that they share MetLife Stadium.
“We definitely respect each other’s games,” Barkley said. “He sat out last year and that is not good for the league in general because he is such a tremendous player,” “You look forward to seeing a guy like that on Sunday. For him to be here and we are playing in the same stadium, I am excited. I am happy for him and that he found a spot. I am happy that he is able to show his talent. I wish nothing but the best for him.”