Home HBO's Hard Knocks Giants’ Saquon Barkley decision focal point of ‘Hard Knocks’ debut episode

Giants’ Saquon Barkley decision focal point of ‘Hard Knocks’ debut episode

by Guest Blogger

Valuing, and replacing, Saquon Barkley in a new-look Giants’ offense

It took 23 years, but the NFL finally got the New York Giants on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

We learned that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are Joe Schoen’s go-to when on the road. He said that he ate PB&J sandwiches while driving as an area scout, and also ate them when driving to New York after being hired as the Giants’ new GM in 2022.

But while that’s a fun anecdote, it wasn’t the big story from the first episode.

The real meat of the first episode was the peek behind the scenes of the Giants’ free agency process, particularly with respect to star running back Saquon Barkley.

The value of Saquon Barkley

“Certain positions have high dollar points because they’re positions of impact,” said assistant GM Brandon Brown “You want to make sure you get return on your investment.”

The big question for the Giants was whether Barkley — and the running back position in general — is worth that investment.

Schoen said early in the episode that the running back position became less and less of a need for the Giants in comparison to the rest of the roster. He observed that the Giants needed to add a cornerback, a pass rusher, and a number one receiver, saying “that running back keeps going down.”

“We’re not going to franchise him,” Schoen said, noting that the team wasn’t going to be realistic to franchise and trade him. The Giants didn’t anticipate anyone giving up draft picks for Barkley as well as sign him to a $12 million per year contract. They regarded a potential tag and trade scenario as a “Hail Mary”.

The Giants’ front office members also seemed skeptical that any team with a $20 million per year receiver would pay Barkley what he was asking. As it so happens, the Philadelphia Eagles were willing to give Barkley that contract. And in light of how the Giants’ brass values the running back position, the Eagles signing Barkley likely came as a surprise.

Schoen questioned how Philly would allocate their funds given their own needs. That’s particularly true given that their divisional rival would also have to pay receivers DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, both who whom would garter far more than $20 million per year.

Replacing Barkley

With respect to the class of running back free agents as a whole, Schoen said, “There’s going to be saturation in the running back market, there could be some value guys there.”

He later said to John Mara that he believed that the Giants wouldn’t need to draft a running back highly to replace Barkley, but that they would be able to address the position with a high value player in the second week of free agency.

The Giants’ brain trust discussed multiple free agent running backs. From Zack Moss and Tony Pollard to Devin Singletary, who they ultimately signed.

We know that Hard Knocks is edited in such a way as to give us a glimpse behind the scenes, but without giving away much of anything to future opponents. Even so, we got some interesting insight on the running back position, and perhaps into the offense as a whole.

The discussion around Singletary noted that (in contrast to Moss) he’s more of a receiving threat, and a screen player in particular, on third downs than a pass protector. That could be a hint that the Giants will look to emphasize running back screens in the upcoming season. They also noted that Moss was a “banger” on first and second downs, while Singletary is more of a finesse player. In light of that — and of course the pick of Malik Nabers at 6th overall — that the Giants are going to be more pass-heavy than in previous years.

Schoen also noted that the Giants aren’t paying Daniel Jones $40 million to hand the ball off. It seems clear that the plan has been to add weapons in the passing game, and put the offense wholly on Jones.

Put simply, the first episode makes clear that this wasn’t Saquon Barkley’s team anymore. 2024 is all about Daniel Jones.

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