RB Index, Week 2: 15 touches for Saquon Barkley is inexcusable

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Hey, New York Giants: You must not want to win.

That's the only rationale I can muster in trying to explain why Saquon Barkley had a measly (and career-low) 15 -- 15! -- touches in Big Blue's Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

It's not like the Cowboys immediately bottled up the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. On his first carry of the season, Barkley exploded through a hole up the middle for a 59-yard gain to put the Giants in good position to get on the board first (which they did, on an Eli Manning touchdown pass to Evan Engram). Then ...

Crickets.

Well, it sure seemed like crickets, considering the production we became accustomed to from Barkley in a rookie campaign that saw him rack up an NFL-best 2,028 yards from scrimmage. Barkley, the most sought-after player in most fantasy leagues due to his ability to dominate as a runner and receiver, touched the ball just 12 times after the opening drive. He finished the game with 11 carries for 120 yards (a whopping 10.9 yards per carry) and four catches for 19 yards. Now, he did commit the first fumble of his NFL career on the Giants' first play from scrimmage, but New York recovered the football and Barkley immediately followed the blunder with that massive run. So I'd be shocked if this was why his touches were limited in the 35-17 defeat to a division rival.

Some will argue that Barkley didn't see his normal workload because the Giants were playing from behind for most of the game, and I get that. But Barkley is far and away the team's most talented player. And as I mentioned above, he's a terror in both the running and passing games. Barkley racked up 91 catches for 721 yards and four scores last season. So even when the Giants need to take to the air in comeback mode, No. 26 is more than capable as a pass catcher. But on Sunday, the G-Men seemed to forget this.

According to Next Gen Stats, Barkley touched the ball on just 28.3 percent of his offensive snaps. To put this into perspective, Barkley touched the ball on 42.8 percent of his offensive snaps in 2018, when he authored one of the most impressive rookie campaigns by a running back in the history of the NFL. Elsewhere in the league in Week 1, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey touched the ball on 45.3 percent of his offensive snaps. Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott recorded a touch on 41.4 percent of his offensive snaps -- and he showed up to the Cowboys facilities four days before the season opener! If anything, Saquon and Zeke's touch percentages should have been swapped.

Who needs more convincing? There's always someone ...

In Week 1, 12 other RBs recorded more touches than the Giants' Pro Bowl back, including Baltimore's RB2 Gus Edwards. Don't get me wrong: I like Edwards and what he brings to the Ravens' offense, but come on. Furthermore, the crosstown Jets found a way to get wide receiver Jamison Crowder 15 touches.

I just don't get it. It'd be one thing if the Giants' passing attack looked like the 2007 Patriots. But this is the 2019 Giants, a team without Odell Beckham Jr., a team missing suspended free-agent acquisition Golden Tate. If New York was trying to prove a point by letting Eli Manning throw the ball 44 times (the seventh-most pass attempts in Week 1), it didn't work.

The Giants must find a way to routinely give Barkley the ball because he'll find a way to routinely make positive gains, whether against a loaded box or out of the backfield in space. There is no excuse for limiting Barkley's touches to 15. It's plain and simple.

Entering the 2019 NFL season, former All-Pro running back and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew examines all RBs and ranks his top 15. For the first quarter of the season, the Ground Index rankings are based on a combination of:

1) Player accomplishments prior to the 2019 season.
2) Weekly performances, while considering strength of opponent.

Rankings will be solely judged on this season's efforts following Week 4. Now, let's get to it. Entering Week 2, here is MJD's pecking order:

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

1
Christian McCaffrey
RB
Panthers
4

2019 stats: 1 game | 19 att | 128 rush yds | 6.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 10 rec | 81 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

I was in Charlotte for this game, and McCaffrey looked as good as he ever has. He put the Panthers on his back with 29 touches for over 200 scrimmage yards, and he was on the field for 100 percent of the Panthers' offensive plays, per Next Gen Stats. If this is any indication for how 2019 will shake out, McCaffrey is in line for a special season.

2
Saquon Barkley
RB
Giants
1

2019 stats: 1 game | 11 att | 120 rush yds | 10.9 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 4 rec | 19 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

I already spoke my mind about the Giants' criminally underutilizing their star running back, so I won't go into more detail here. I will say that he is one of the most gifted backs in the league as a constant home-run threat. I sure hope he's more involved in the offense against the Buffalo Bills this weekend, or I might just have to give Pat Shurmur a call.

3
Alvin Kamara
RB
Saints
1

2019 stats: 1 game | 13 att | 97 rush yds | 7.5 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 7 rec | 72 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

As the Saints' RB1 in Weeks 1 through 4 last season (when Mark Ingram was suspended), Kamara averaged 22.8 touches and 152.8 scrimmage yards per game. As the team's featured back in 2019, he is already on this pace. Kamara is what sets this offense apart.

4
Le'Veon Bell
RB
Jets
1

2019 stats: 1 game | 17 att | 60 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 6 rec | 32 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Man, it was good seeing Bell out on the field again. It had been 602 days since his last game -- and it showed a little, as his 3.5 yards per carry was almost a yard shy of his career average (4.3). I'm not concerned, though. He'll get back up to speed with more game action.

5
Ezekiel Elliott
RB
Cowboys
1

2019 stats: 1 game | 13 att | 53 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 1 rush TD | 1 rec | 10 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Elliott's touches were down in Week 1 and rightfully so, considering his holdout ended days before the opener. It was promising to see that Zeke stayed in shape during his holdout, which means it won't take long for the Cowboys to get their star more involved.

6
Todd Gurley
RB
Rams

2019 stats: 1 game | 14 att | 97 rush yds | 6.9 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 1 rec | 4 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Y'all doubted me when I said less is more with Gurley in the offseason, but it proved true. His 6.9 yards per carry on 14 attempts against a stout Panthers defense shows he can be just as efficient without getting the rock every other play.

7
Dalvin Cook
RB
Vikings
2

2019 stats: 1 game | 21 att | 111 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 2 rec | 9 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Just as everyone suspected, the Vikings' ground attack took off with Gary Kubiak in the building. Cook looked great in the opener with hard-nosed runs and big-play ability out of the backfield.

8
Derrick Henry
RB
Titans
6

2019 stats: 1 game | 19 att | 84 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 1 rush TD | 1 rec | 75 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Henry is owning his role as the Titans' lead back and the entire offense is benefiting. His physical, downhill running style wore down the opponent, which is now somewhat expected. What I didn't expect was his 75-yard touchdown RECEPTION. Maybe Henry is more than a one-trick pony.

9
Nick Chubb
RB
Browns
1

2019 stats: 1 game | 17 att | 75 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 3 rec | 10 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The Browns didn't live up to the hype in Week 1, but Chubb was one of the bright spots. With his solid start and Baker Mayfield getting smothered by Tennessee's defense, Freddie Kitchens might want to consider leaning on his run game a little more. Chubb has the ability to take the pressure off Mayfield and his star receivers if given the chance.

10
Marlon Mack
RB
Colts
NR

2019 stats: 1 game | 25 att | 174 rush yds | 7.0 ypc | 1 rush TD | 0 rec | 0 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

I'm not gonna lie: Mack looked real good in Week 1. Like REAL good. When Indy's back was against the wall in the third quarter, Mack's 63-yard rushing touchdown got the team back within one score. That run was just one highlight of the back's career day.

11
David Johnson
RB
Cardinals
NR

2019 stats: 1 game | 18 att | 82 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 6 rec | 55 rec yds | 1 rec TD

I wasn't sure how much Johnson would be involved in Kliff Kingsbury's offense, but I was happy to see him get 24 touches. Johnson has logged 1,904 receiving yards since 2015 (third among running backs in that span), so expect Kyler Murray to give him more looks out of the backfield.

12
Chris Carson
RB
Seahawks
NR

2019 stats: 1 game | 15 att | 46 rush yds | 3.1 ypc | 1 rush TD | 6 rec | 35 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Carson showed his versatility early by getting involved in the run and pass games. As a result, he notched the second multi-touchdown game of his career. I wrote this summer that the Seahawks could give former first-rounder Rashaad Penny a chance to win over the starting position, but Carson's output will make this tough for Penny.

13
Mark Ingram
RB
Ravens
NR

2019 stats: 1 game | 14 att | 107 rush yds | 7.6 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 0 rec | 0 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Ingram didn't waste any time making a name for himself in Baltimore. On his first carry as a Raven, the two-time Pro Bowler flattened defenders on a 49-yard run. With Ingram leading the charge, the Ravens look primed to be a top rushing team for a second straight season.

14
Joe Mixon
RB
Bengals
7

2019 stats: 1 game | 6 att | 10 rush yds | 1.7 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 2 rec | 7 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The Bengals and Mixon dodged an injury scare last week. The back exited Sunday's game after a defensive lineman fell on his ankle, but reports suggest Mixon won't miss significant time. I had to drop him down the ladder, but he could climb back up quickly with his talent.

15
Leonard Fournette
RB
Jaguars

2019 stats: 1 game | 13 att | 66 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 4 rec | 28 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

At times against the Chiefs, Fournette resembled the rookie running back fans fell in love with. It was a promising start for the back, but Fournette lost a fumble for the first time in his NFL career in Sunday's loss. Though, considering that this came after 472 offensive touches, I don't see it becoming a recurring problem.

Dropped out: Sony Michel, Patriots (previously No. 10); Kerryon Johnson, Lions (No. 11); Aaron Jones, Packers (No. 12); and James Conner, Steelers (No. 13).

The Ground Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. What are the possibilities Saquon Barkley recaptures the top spot in next week's rankings? Check out the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

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