Steve Smith: Giants need to test Saquon Barkley’s ‘explosiveness’

Saquon Barkley acknowledged this week that playing two games in a span of five days wasn’t an “ideal” scenario for his initial return to the Giants following 2020 knee surgery.

But one former NFL star who made it back to the playing field within a year of tearing his ACL believes the Giants need to increase Barkley’s workload to find out if his “explosiveness” is still there.

Longtime Panthers and Ravens wide receiver and current NFL Network analyst Steve Smith tore his ACL while playing for Baltimore in 2015 before returning the following year and totaling 70 receptions for 799 yards in 14 games in his final NFL season.

Barkley was expected to be active for Thursday night’s road game against the Washington Football Team on a short week following the star running back’s nondescript performance in the Giants’ season-opening loss Sunday against the Broncos.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft totaled just 28 combined yards, including 27 on 10 carries in Week 1, his first game action since suffering the injury in Chicago in September 2020.

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley #26, jumps in the air after catching a pass during practice
Two games in five days is a major test for Saquon Barkley and his surgically repaired knee.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“When you are younger, it helps, but age has nothing to do with ACL tears. It’s just how bad is it?” Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler, said when asked about the 24-year-old Barkley this week on a conference call. “We will never find out if Saquon Barkley is getting his explosiveness back if all you are doing is sitting back and throwing the ball.

“They didn’t do a good job of getting him in rhythm — and this is a wide receiver talking about getting the running game going. It really limited to see how much explosiveness he had or didn’t have. When you drop and throw the ball as much as they are trying to do, it makes things very difficult to judge.”

Daniel Jones attempted 37 passes against the Broncos, while the Giants ran the ball just 20 times, counting six by the quarterback. Barkley was on the field for 29 of 61 offensive snaps, but he sat out most of the fourth quarter when the score became lopsided. His longest gain among 11 touches (including one reception) was a 5-yard run on the team’s first offensive play.

“I think it’s so much more mental than it is anything else,” former Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn said when asked about Barkley on Thursday on NFL Network. “I think you’ve got to put yourself back into a position where you are completely fine. It just takes a while to get to that mental state of the game.”

Sehorn returned to play five more years in the NFL after missing the entire 1998 season with the Giants due to a torn ACL.

“Athletically, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with [Barkley],” Sehorn said. “Once he gets his mind back into that game mode, of what to expect, where the holes are, how to cut back, seeing it and reading it, that’s the part that you can’t anticipate while you’re sitting on the sideline or rehabbing.

“And that takes a little while. You don’t just jump back in no matter how great of shape you’re in and be the same player, without game experience.”

New York Post

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