New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley took just 31 snaps (50 percent) in Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints and was very often on the sideline during key third downs.
Barkley wasn’t injured in the game, which makes his absence in important moments all the more curious.
The Giants gave Matt Breida 24 snaps in the game, while rookie Eric Gray saw his biggest workload since Week 5, seeing action on 11 snaps.
The running back by committee approach didn’t work. New York gained just 60 yards on the ground, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. 36 of those came by way of quarterback Tommy DeVito, who averaged 9.0 yards per carry.
It was an ugly performance compounded by the Giants taking their most impactful player off the field in big moments.
“I think that if Saquon needs a break, then he comes out. We put the next person in,” head coach Brian Daboll said. “Saquon’s obviously an important player for us. He plays as much as he can play. If he needs a (breath), we put another guy in.”
So, it was just a coincidence Barkley needed breathers on must-have downs?
“I mean, I couldn’t tell you the exact amount of third-and-longs or whatever it is, but he’ll stay out there as long as he can,” Daboll said.
Barkley is the Giants’ biggest home run hitter and often finds a way to break at least one big run per game. Taking him off the field when the team needed him most remains a curious decision and Daboll’s explanation is unsatisfactory.