After being selected second overall out of Penn State in the 2018 NFL Entry Draft, Saquon Barkley lit up the league in a way that few experts could predict. The running back clearly had tremendous ability and athleticism, but on a team like the New York Giants, which was struggling to progress and featured a below-average offensive line, the rookie wasn’t expected to break any records – but then he did.
Even though his efforts weren’t enough to yield the Giants even a respectful record, Barkley is already a fan favorite at the MetLife Stadium with everyone in Big Blue hoping that he continues to make a mockery of NFL defenses.
5. Playing defense at the Pro Bowl
Saquon Barkley’s tremendous rookie season didn’t go unnoticed across the NFL fan base, and it earned the running back a place in the NFL Pro Bowl. Along with now former elite-level teammates Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins, Barkley finished in the top ten in fan votes for the position, with all three making the final cut. But the running back had clearly captured the hearts of NFL fans as he finished with the most fan votes of any running back and placed third overall, only behind quarterbacks Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes.
At the game, as is the case in these overloaded spectacles, Barkley didn’t see too much of the ball, tallying ten yards from two carries. But he and fellow running back Ezekiel Elliott were let loose on defense, with the Giants rookie getting a chance to pick up the ball and indulge in a little bit of schoolyard football after Mike Evans, a wide receiver, made an interception on DeShaun Watson.
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4. Sealing the Giants rookie rushing touchdown record with a bang
Coming into the last game of the season, playing host to the Dallas Cowboys, Saquon Barkley was tied with Bill Paschal for the Giants’ franchise rookie record for the most rushing touchdowns at ten. Having tied the record in the last game against the Indianapolis Colts, all eyes were on the rookie to break the record that had stood for 75 years.
Down by three with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Giants were in a third and goal situation four yards out from the end zone. Now, we’ve all seen top running backs make powerful plays over the line of scrimmage from a yard or maybe two yards out, but Barkley took the ball from Eli Manning and then soared Michael Jordan-style to get the ball over the line to reel in yet another record.
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3. Smashing the Giants’ rookie touchdown record
Bill Paschal’s rookie records took a bit of a beating last season, with Saquon Barkley intent on getting his name in the history books. Paschal also held the Giants’ rookie touchdown record with 12 along with Beckham Jr., who tied Paschal’s record four years ago. To etch his name alongside Beckham Jr. and Paschal, Barkley followed up his three-touchdown display against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with another two against the reigning champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.
After his two touchdowns and 101 yards against the Eagles, Barkley then had five more games to get just one touchdown to move past the joint record holders. After clocking in 125 yards while being held out of the end zone by the stingiest defense against the rush in the league, the Chicago Bears, Barkley exploded against the Washington Redskins for 170 yards and the record-breaking touchdown en route to the Giants’ only win by a margin greater than one touchdown. The running back went on to extend his new record by a further two touchdowns, finishing with 15 as a rookie.
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2. Blazes past 2000 yards in style
The last game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys saw Saquon Barkley get the franchise rookie rushing touchdowns record in style as well as reach an incredible milestone not long beforehand. En route to a Giants touchdown, Barkley took the ball out of a shotgun play and just kept powering down the field, locking in a 68-yard run to blaze past 2000 yards from scrimmage for the season. His rookie campaign finished with the stat line of 2028 scrimmage yards, 15 touchdowns, and an average of five yards per rush, cementing himself as the first Giants rookie to surpass 1000 rushing yards and only the third ever in the history of the NFL.
1. Barkley’s debut was something special
To say that Saquon Barkley got off to a good start with the New York Giants would be an understatement. The opening game of the season was against the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose defense was rated by many as one of the best in the league coming into the campaign. Not wanting to ease into the big leagues, Barkley rushed 18 times for 106 yards and caught two passes for 22 yards, but the moment that let the whole league know just how special he is was unprecedented 68-yard run to score his first touchdown on his NFL debut.
Saquon Barkley’s explosive rookie season is giving New York Giants fans hope for a bright future despite the gutting of the team’s stars this summer. He’d be hard-pressed to have a similarly strong campaign without the threat of Beckham Jr. keeping opposing defenses honest, but he’ll certainly be the star at the MetLife Stadium in 2019.