The New York Giants offense is predicated on one player — running back Saquon Barkley. Everything they do this season will center around him.
The third-year stud rusher is just as effective in the passing game as he is rushing the ball and he is expected to get the lion’s share of the handoffs as well as oodles of targets this year.
If all goes well, Barkley will be among the league leaders in touches. So, where does that leave the other running backs on the roster, specifically free agent Dion Lewis?
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett knows the Giants’ success this year hinges on the legs of Barkley, but he warns not to sleep on Lewis.
“He’s just a real pro. You can tell he loves the game,” Garrett told reporters on Tuesday. “He works very hard at it. He respects the details of the game and what he needs to do to be a complete back. Don’t have this impression that this guy is a receiving back (only). He’s willing to block, demonstrates an ability to run inside and outside in this league for a long, long time.
“He knows the answers to every question, he embraces the opportunities each day that he gets in them, and you said it. You get him in some of those two-minute situations, he’s a very clean protector, he understands who he needs to block when he’s asked to do that. But he’s also a very good route runner who can beat you when he gets out in space. Again, I admired him for a long time from afar and it’s been great to work with him.”
The 29-year-old Lewis began his NFL career as fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles out of Pitt in 2011. He served as a change-up back to LeSean McCoy for two seasons before being traded to Cleveland, where he missed the 2014 with a fractured leg.
After being signed and released by the Indianapolis Colts later that year, Lewis ended up in New England where the Pats found a role for the 5-foot-8, 195 pounder. He was part of a successful backfield by committee as well as returning kicks.
In 2018, Lewis signed a four-year $20 million contract with the Tennessee Titans. This past March, he was reunited with Joe Judge, signing a one-year, $1.55 million deal with Big Blue.
Lewis is returning kicks in camp as well as backing up Barkley. He is a veteran player perhaps on his last NFL stop. As usual, he will give it everything he’s got. Why else would Judge bring him in?
“It’s going great,” Lewis told reporters on Tuesday when asked about his relationship with Barkley. “He’s a great player and he’s a great person. We clicked right off the bat. I like the way he works, he works really hard, he’s competitive and he’s a humble person. He wants to get better every day. I like the way he works, and we work really well together. We just have to keep pushing each other, keep learning from each other and try to do whatever we can to help this team win.”
Lewis, an excellent change-up back and third-down option, knows he can only control what the Giants ask of him. He will be ready for whatever the coaches throw at him.
“I just try to be a complete player,” he said. “Obviously, I’m limited in some things I can do. I just try to work hard at everything and try to do what I can do best. Pass protection is something that took me a while to learn. The longer you do it, the more reps you get at it, the better you become. I think I am extremely confident in that. Just try to use my technique and use my leverage and things like that to overcome some of the other obstacles I have.
“I just look at it as a two and half to three second fight. Try not to get beat inside, that’s the way I look at it and that’s my mentality.”
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