Life After Saquon Barkley officially begins now for the 2020 New York Football Giants.
Life After Saquon Barkley begins Sunday against the decimated 49ers with Daniel Jones promising he won’t try to carry the team, and the day.
It begins with Joe Judge asking for complementary football from his defense and special teams, because he has seen firsthand that it takes a village.
It begins with Judge asking every Giant to … Bill Belichick Spoiler Alert … do your job, and nothing more.
It begins with Jason Garrett coordinating his first game plan After Saquon Barkley.
And finally, it begins with no individual back trying to replace Saquon Barkley.
The Giants, starting here and now, resemble a majority of NFL teams that lack that transcendent bell-cow running back, and there is precedent for Running Back By Committee, because once upon a time, they boasted a feared three-headed monster they nicknamed Earth (Brandon Jacobs), Wind (Derrick Ward) and Fire (Ahmad Bradshaw). Those three — behind a tough, cohesive offensive line — were instrumental in helping Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin earn their Super Bowl championship following the 2007 season.
Once the force-feeding ends, Devonta Freeman will head the RBBC, and someone who knows him better than anyone guarantees that the Giants and their fans will love him, on the field and in the locker room.
“First they’re getting a leader in that locker room,” Vikings elite RB Dalvin Cook told The Post. “On the field, the more touches he gets, the better he gets, the stronger he gets. Just expect a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from his teammates.”
Cook followed Freeman, who grew up in around the mean streets of a Liberty City housing project called Pork ’N Beans, at Miami Central High School, where Freeman won the 2010 state championship with a 38-carries, 308-yards rushing day. Cook then followed Freeman to Florida State.
“Devonta always ran with that determination, and he always had good feet and good hands,” Cook said. “I kind of tried to model my game behind his.”
They grew up 10-15 minutes from each other, and Freeman hosted Cook during his college visit.
“He was just always a guy that I could lean on, and he really showed me the blueprint of, ‘Go in, don’t worry about being drafted, just go work hard and worry about the results later,’ ” Cook said.
So, from 2014-16, Cook rushed for 4,464 yards with 46 TDs and caught 79 passes with two TDs. From 2011-13, Freeman had rushed for 2,255 yards with 30 TDs and caught 48 passes with one TD in his three seasons at the school.
Freeman played for the Liberty City Optimist Warriors program founded by Luther Campbell.
“He played for Uncle Luke,” Cook said. “I knew who was Devonta was.”
Cook and Freeman played for Miami Central coach Telly Lockette.
“Telly Lockette is the person that made him the running back he is today,” Cook said. “That’s our guy. That’s how I met him.”
Cook is in regular contact with Freeman and looks forward to following him from afar.
“It’s gonna be fun to have him in that locker room up there in New York, the guys are gonna love him,” Cook said. “I’m just happy for him. Just being an NFL player, I know being away from the game, it kind of messes you mentally a little bit. I know the person Devonta is, he wants to be on that field.”
How much he will be on the field in his Giants debut is a question. Freeman will be motivated to return to his former Pro Bowl form. He was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2015 and ’16. He caught 73 passes in ’15 and 54 in ’16. And 59 last season.
He is not Saquon Barkley. The Giants won’t ask him to be.
“He’s not gonna try to be Saquon, “ Cook said, “he’s gonna try to be the best version of Devonta he could be.”
RBBC first. Then Life With Devonta Freeman.
New York Post
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