Saquon Barkley teaches Buccaneers an important lesson

Saquon Barkley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers can learn from the Giants and Saquon Barkley.

Good teams in the NFL can still learn from the bad teams. Yes, even the really bad teams have something to offer, even if just as a case study in what not to do. The Buccaneers can and should take this approach with the Giants.

The Giants are a perfect study in what not to do when trying to run a rebuild. Taking Daniel Jones over some of the other options at quarterback in that class is a great place to start with the serious questions about decision-making, but Saquon Barkley is another area of concern.

Barkley is one of the most physically talented running backs in the NFL. With the perfect combination of running ability and hands, Barkley was a great prospect coming out of Penn State, but he was never a fit with the Giants.

For a team like New York that needed help on offense, taking a generational talent like Barkley early in the first round seems like a good place to start. However, great running back talent in the NFL is not enough to make an offense great, or even to make a run game good, for that matter. Just look at the offensive struggles in New York during Barkley’s tenure.

The running back position just doesn’t take over games as often as it used to, so spending premium picks on running backs often fall short of expectations. You may get a great statistical player, but the overall offensive impact is minimized.

Barkley was able to succeed despite his supporting cast for his first two seasons. Great production on the ground and through the air made it seem like the Giants were starting to turn the corner offensively, but a major issue persisted.

A bad offensive line makes it next to impossible to support a running back long-term. Some could describe the season-ending injury to Barkley last season as a freak accident, but playing behind a terrible line like that will put the RB in a position to take more hits, which shortens their shelf life in the modern game.

After making it back from his injury, Barkley doesn’t look like the player that dominated for his first two seasons. Steve Politi pointed out an interesting fact in Barkley’s game against Washington on Twitter.

At one point, Barkley had 39 yards on seven carries. This looks like a great average; however, that stat line leaves out a 41-yard run earlier in the game. This doesn’t mean that Barkley is a bad player, but it does show you just how fickle the position can be at times, even for the great players.

Rather than taking the supreme talent at running back, the Giants should’ve focused on their offensive line, and this is a very important lesson for the Buccaneers to keep in mind. With a good line, almost any back can succeed. With a bad line, even the great backs can get lost on bad offenses.

Each year, especially recently, fans seem to call for a running back in the first round of each draft for Tampa, yet they seem to forget that the line is the actual determining factor for rushing success.

Running back is a painfully fickle position, one that is hard to rely on for offensive consistency in the modern NFL. Players like Saquon Barkley can go on to have great individual careers in the NFL statistically, but if teams like the Buccaneers want to win, they need to focus on the line first, then spend their premium draft picks on positions that play a more important role than running back.

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