When one thinks of the New York Giants’ running game, it’s all about second-year budding superstar Saquon Barkley. But in today’s NFL, teams need more than just one back, or even two.
The Giants are fully aware of this and have assembled a varied group of backs to stack behind Barkley this season. The only question now is how that depth chart fleshes out.
Wayne Gallman was Barkley’s primary backup in 2018, but he’s been hobbled by a foot injury this summer and is currently sidelined. He is relegated to watching the rest of the group compete in his absence. Paul Perkins, Rod Smith, fullback Eli Penny and rookie Jon Hilliman have all been strutting their stuff for the coaches this summer.
Giant fans have a cursory interest in this competition, mainly because they know that Barkley will get the lion’s share of the touches in the backfield this year. In 2018, Barkley had 261 of the team’s 354 rushing attempts. Gallman was second with 51 carries. No other player had more than 15.
Gallman was asked if playing behind Barkley was an insignificant role on the team for him and the other backs.
“It’s not difficult at all. Just come into work every day. These are my brothers,” Gallman said on Monday, via Giants.com. “Of course, we’re going to compete. The business part of it, you can’t really worry about that. If you’re cut, you’re cut. If you make the team, you make the team. If you go to another team, you go to another team. If you’re the starter, you’re the starter. It is what it is. That goes back to my saying, just put the hard work in. Let the results show. That’s all that really matters. You can’t really think about those things.”
Gallman has some catching up to do after watching Perkins, Smith and Hilliman shine in the Giants’ second preseason game against the Chicago Bears last week.
Perkins, especially, has shown the Giants’ brass that they made a solid decision by not cutting him. He was a draft choice left over from the previous regime who had fallen out of favor after winning a starting role. Then, injuries cost him another season. This summer, he’s getting a second lease on his Giants’ career, and is taking full advantage of it.
“It feels good to be back,” Perkins said. “I’m just out here having fun with the guys, enjoying my time out here and just grateful. It’s a blessing to be out here and to still be here. (After) being out of football for a whole year, there definitely has been a learning curve. But I feel like I’m slowly but surely coming back.”
Smith, a former Dallas Cowboy, has a leg up on the others for a roster spot because of his special teams play. Hilliman was a star at Boston College before transferring to Rutgers. He’s also looked the part in the small sample we’ve seen.
The Giants are hoping they never have to find out what life without Saquon would be like, but they want to be prepared nonetheless.