Life after Saquon: How Giants defied the odds to survive losing a star RB once before


Life after Saquon: How Giants defied the odds to survive losing a star RB once before

His Eagles won’t see the New York Giants until October, but that did not stop the head coach from mixing it up and adding fuel to the rivalry by sharing a story about his recent interactions with fans of Big Blue, throwing what he clearly perceives is a not-so-subtle jab at his neighbors 95 miles up the Turnpike in North Jersey.


“You know, sometimes you see Giants fans around here, you know, being so close, and they give me a good, ‘Hey, go Giants,'” a smirking Sirianni told reporters. “And I’d typically let it go, but if the guy gets me good enough, I usually say, ‘You know, we got your best player.'”


That player to whom Sirianni referred is Saquon Barkley, now the star running back for the Eagles after moving on from the Giants in free agency after six seasons. We can save the debate over whether Barkley was actually the Giants’ best player, as Sirianni asserted – best offensive playmaker, for sure, but All-Pro nose tackle Dexter Lawrence has been the top player at his position in the game for two years running.


There is no denying the void in the backfield without Barkley, who accounted for 40% of their offensive touchdowns last season with 10.


But make no mistake: the Giants have defied the odds once before when faced with the challenge of replacing a star running back – and that task, by sheer production, truth be told, was a lot more daunting.


When Tiki Barber, considered the best running back in franchise history, retired from the NFL following the 2006 season, the Giants were essentially starting over. They had to figure out how to replace the 2,127 yards of total offense Barber put up the year prior, turning the backfield over to third-year pro Brandon Jacobs, veterans Rueben Droughns and Derrick Ward, and a seventh-round rookie in Ahmad Bradshaw.


Somehow, the Giants found a way. Now, no one is predicting the team itself to make another legendary run like the one Jacobs and Bradshaw helped spark on the way to the Super Bowl XLII upset victory over the Patriots.


Barber was first-team All-Pro in 2005 and made three Pro Bowls throughout his career, finishing with over 15,000 total yards with 67 touchdowns and earning a spot in the Ring of Honor.


Bad blood: Saquon Barkley eviscerates Tiki Barber after Giants legend rips move to the Eagles


So when it comes to staring down what outside observers consider impossible, the accomplishments of the Jacobs-led backfield show what is possible for the Giants’ current backfield despite the lack of expectations with Barkley suiting up elsewhere.


The road to the playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl was not without twists and turns for the running backs, and certainly was not smooth as history may remember the final outcome.


Jacobs injured his knee in Week 1 in Dallas. Ward stepped up in his absence before Jacobs returned in Week 5 against the Jets. Bradshaw had zero carries until Week 12 and finally announced his presence with a 17-carry, 151-yard performance as the Giants clinched a playoff spot in Buffalo.


Here’s a look at the players in position to step up in a quest to be the next Jacobs, Bradshaw, Ward and Droughns and make critics regret doubting the replacements can do the job.


“I don’t know – just ball out and win games. You know, that’s the biggest thing,” Devin Singletary said when asked how the Giants can escape the shadow cast in Barkley’s departure. “That’s our focus anyway: Win games. We aren’t really worried about the shadow of Saquon or none of that. You know, it’s just finding ways to win games.”


EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – MAY 30: Devin Singletary #26 of the New York Giants runs the ball during OTA Offseason Workouts at NY Giants Quest Diagnostics Training Center on May 30, 2024 in East Rutherford, New Jersey

This has been written and talked about from a national angle several times over the past month, and it’s misleading: the Giants did not let Barkley leave without making a concerted effort to replace him.

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