Giants want more 'dirty' runs from Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley's big-play proficiency has made him one of the NFL's standout rookies, but New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur wants his standout running back to get his feet dirtier moving forward.

"He's had success bouncing runs in the past and gotten big gains out of them," Shurmur said, per "But there also is what I call a dirty 4-, 5-, 6-yard run that he has to be willing to take as well. It's a fine line.

"It's the judgment and the vision of the ball carrier. Like anything, he's getting used to it. He's a rookie, and he's certainly done a great job for us, but there's still a lot to be learned. As he runs the ball more and more and more, he'll get a feel for when it's right to bounce it and right to stick it up in there."

Barkley has been a consistent offensive powerhouse for the Giants, generating 1,116 yards from scrimmage -- third most in the NFL behind Todd Gurley (1,390) and James Conner (1,158). He's already tied Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson's single-season mark for the most 100-yard games from scrimmage (8) since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, per NFL Research.

A big chunk of that yardage has come on big runs. Barkley has seven carries of 20 yards or more and has three carries of 40 yards or more. Those type of plays have built up Barkley's boom-or-bust reputation, at least in the running game. Of his 131 carries, 22 have been in 4-6-yard range. He's had 19 negative-yardage runs, 15 for no gain and 38 carries for a yard or two, per Next Gen Stats.

With all the woes the Giants have on offense, the coaching staff understands that improving Barkley's decision-making in the short- and mid-range running game isn't the team's most urgent need. It's simply an area they believe the rookie is capable of improving in over the second half of the season.

"There might have been one or two that maybe he could've continued to kind of push it up the middle instead of cutting back," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said, "but the minute you say, 'Hey, hit it up in there,' then all of a sudden he cuts one back for 25 yards and then you say, 'Hey, great run.' I think he's going to continue to feel more comfortable with what he's doing with more reps..."

By nearly all measurements, Barkley has excelled for the Giants, especially when considering the carousel of offensive linemen he's had to play behind all season. Shurmur's desire to see more "dirty" runs is an attempt to purge any specks of impurity from Barkley's game.

"That's the growing pains, I guess, I got to just continue to grow through and continue to get better at," Barkley said. "You go back and you watch film. If my shoulders were a little this way, I probably would've made this cut. If they were this way, I probably would've made that cut. I want to be perfect."

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