Heading into the final season of his rookie contract, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley has a lot to prove.
One offensive coach from an NFL team told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that Barkley "still doesn't know how to play running back enough" four years into his career.
"He's a bouncer," the coach said. "He wants every run to be a home run. He's going to have to learn that four-yard runs in this league are good, instead of stopping, cutting it back and losing two. And he gets his ass kicked in protection."
Drafted No. 2 overall by the Giants in 2018, Barkley's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start. He led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, scored 15 total touchdowns and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
That has been the peak of Barkley's tenure with the Giants thus far, however.
The Penn State alum did have a solid second season (1,441 yards from scrimmage, eight total touchdowns) in 13 games, but his 2020 season came to an end in Week 2 when he suffered a torn ACL. Barkley returned in 2021 but only managed 856 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns in 13 starts.
Barkley has also declined significantly in more in-depth stats. He led all running backs in rushing yards after contact (736) and receiving yards after contact (195) as a rookie, but his 279 rushing yards after contact last season were fewer than quarterbacks Josh Allen (292) and Lamar Jackson (282).
The Giants did exercise Barkley's fifth-year option in April 2021, but that was done by the previous regime led by general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge.
With Joe Schoen now running the front office as general manager and Brian Daboll taking over as head coach, Barkley's future with the Giants after this season are very much in doubt.
The looming free agency also means 2022 serves as Barkley's audition for the rest of the league to prove he can be a No. 1 back going forward.