Saquon Barkley earned a taste of the New York media criticism for the first time in his career when New York Giants great Tiki Barber criticized his pass blocking after Monday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Barber said on CBS Sports Radio/CBS Sports Network earlier in the week Barkley "might not be an every-down back," which elicited several responses from Barkley himself and the Giants coaching staff. Barber didn't back down from his comments on the "Tiki and Tierney" show on CBS Sports Radio/CBS Sports Network on Thursday, explaining how he was criticized for fumbling issues earlier in his Giants career before learning how to hold the ball differently and changing up his running style.
"I've been asked if I'm going to reach out to Saquon (to help him work on his blocking). No, I'm not his coach," Barber said on CBS Sports Radio/CBS Sports Network. "I hearken this back to when I had fumbling issues and a media member sat down with me and said 'Tiki, you have a fumbling problem and I'm going to write about it.' And I was like 'what the hell are you talking about?' He made me aware of it.
"I wasn't even thinking about it or really aware of it. It was alarming, but it rose my awareness about it and made me self-conscious about it. I didn't know how to fix it and it continued for a couple years until Tom Coughlin and my RB coach Jerald Ingram came in. You need your coach to help you do that. It would be wrong for me to try and help Saquon fix this. It's his coach's job to fix it just like it was Gerald Ingram's job to fix my fumbling issue."
Barkley didn't shrug off Barber's initial comments when asked about them on Thursday, but the Pro Bowl running back made clear where he stood regarding the constructive criticism.
"I'm not going to look at it as disrespect, I'm going to look at it as a challenge," Barkley said. "Same thing with him, like everyone else, I really don't care about outside opinions. I'm really focused about the opinions in this building. Try to come to work every single day and get better."
Barkley did not have the best opener for the Giants, finishing with 15 carries for 6 yards and six receptions for 60 yards. The running back was partially responsible for the three sacks and multiple hits Giants quarterback Daniel Jones took during Monday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but New York certainly has offensive line issues that are a bigger concern than Barkley's struggles in pass protection.
Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett saw some good and some bad when it came to Barkley's pass protection in Week 1.
"One of the things we love about Saquon is his desire to be a complete back," Garrett said. "That's running the football, both inside and outside, as a pass receiver and also as a pass protector. Having said that, he can improve in all areas. That's something that we like so much about him, is his desire to come in and get better and strive to be a complete back.
"There were some examples of him blocking well in the passing game the other night. There were some examples of him not blocking as well as he needs to. He knows that. We're working on that, we're trying to get him better in that area. But we love his approach, we love his desire to be a complete back, and that's going to help him and our team going forward."
Barber is hoping to bring awareness that will spur Barkley to improve as a football player and there is nothing more to it.
"I don't point this out because I want to crap on Saquon. I think he has a desire and the ability to be one of the greatest RBs in the history of the NFL. But in order to do that, you have to be reliable in every aspect of what they ask you to do," Barber said. "I remember (early in my career) my coach telling me, 'If you can't protect your quarterback, if it doesn't piss you off when your QB gets hit under the chin by that linebacker that you were supposed to block, if that doesn't piss you off more than getting a negative-yard run, then you're not the right teammate.'"
"At the end of the day, my opinion doesn't matter. ... My job as an analyst is to point out what I see and it's what I've seen. It's his coach's job and his job to fix it, and I'm positive that he will. I'm absolutely positive that he will."