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3 ways Saquon Barkley can still improve to terrorize defenses even more

Saquon Barkley, Giants

With the New York Giants trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns, Saquon Barkley will be the main focal point moving forward.

In 2018, Barkley arrived in the NFL and made his presence felt immediately. The second-year running back led the NFL in all-purpose yards with 2,028 and was third in total touchdowns with 15. He was named to his first Pro Bowl and was announced as the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The most impressive part of his rookie season was that he was able to overcome playing with an aging Eli Manning and a mediocre—at best—offensive line.

Despite all that, Barkley gashed through defenses with ease. With no Beckham on the offense, though, things are going to get more complicated for Barkley.

Even though he had an outstanding season in 2018, there is still room for improvement for the gifted running back. Here are three improvements that Barkley can make in 2019 to build upon his impressive 2018 season.

3. Yards Per Reception

It seems unfair to critique any of Barkley’s game considering he has Manning as his quarterback. But if there is an area he can improve upon, it’s getting more yards per reception.

In 2018, Barkley ranked 125th among qualified players in yards per reception. His 7.9 yards per reception ranked 16th among running backs/fullbacks.

Again, it’s tough to get opportunities for more yards when your quarterback is incapable of throwing downfield. The thing is, Barkley is going to be relied upon even more in 2019.

Barkley had 91 receptions in 2018 for only 721 yards. He will need to maximize his touches in the passing game to improve his game going forward.

If Barkley improves in this area, we could see him reach 1,000 yards rushing and receiving with ease next season.

2. Score More Touchdowns

For a player of Barkley’s talent level, there isn’t much he needs to do to round out his game. So, like anyone else, he can score more to improve upon his rookie season in 2018.

In 2018, Barkley was fifth in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 11 and third in total touchdowns with 15.

With him likely getting more usage in 2019, we could see Barkley reach elite touchdown numbers. The record of total touchdowns in one season is still held by LaDainian Tomlinson, who had 31 in 2006.

It’s a record many have said is untouchable, but someone like Barkley could find themselves breaking it soon. He will need to be able to stay healthy to make this happen.

What makes Barkley so dynamic is his ability to be a threat on every single play. Touchdown opportunities could be endless for Barkley in 2019 due to the lack of help surrounding him.

1. Leadership

With the Giants organization in a bit of flux with Beckham being traded and Landon Collins leaving, the team could use someone to right the ship. Leadership is a positive quality embodied within Barkley already.

Manning has never been very vocal, and there aren’t many guys on the roster who have experience as a leader—likely leaving Barkley with the responsibility of leading the team.

Barkley is known to be a hard worker and puts the time in to put his team in position to win games. The next step he can take in his leadership is to be even more vocal in 2019.

From his time at Penn State, many people have labeled him as a role model and a respectful young man. He will need to age in the sense of his leadership in the coming season.

We’ve seen clips and snippets of him communicating with his teammates in 2018. That’s great to see, and more of that would benefit this team tremendously moving forward.

If Barkley can improve his leadership, it will translate into his game as well. When you’re the leader of a team, you see things differently and can help improve those areas of need.

When a franchise is in a rebuilding situation, it takes just one player to begin the process. In 2019, Barkley can take the reins of being the captain of this Giants team and changing the culture.