Saquon Barkley is back.
The New York Giants' star running back shot through the hole Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, juked two defenders, slid through a tackle and dashed for a 36-yard touchdown that reminded fans of the type of juice Barkley brought during his rookie campaign way back in 2018.
"Not to be arrogant, when you see plays like when I went back, and you watch film on the touchdown run I had on Monday -- making that jump cut inside a hole and making those two guys miss and find a way to score -- those are the plays where it kind of puts a smile on your face and you're like, 'That's the guy I know. That's the guy who always was there,'" Barkley said Thursday, via the team's official website.
Through three weeks, Barkley has 408 scrimmage yards, most in the NFL; the Giants RB had 353 scrimmage yards through Week 3 of his 2018 rookie season, when he finished with a league-leading 2,028 total yards and won AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Since he tore his ACL in Chicago in 2020, we hadn't seen the gear-shifting Barkley. Last season was a struggle, as the running back lacked the punch to zip past tacklers.
Barkley said the struggles in 2021 were more mental than physical.
"He was there last year, to be completely honest," Barkley said. "I just had a hard time finding a way to bring him out. That's coming with a mental disconnect, I lost confidence, and it's human nature -- that happens. You're going to have your ups and downs in life, but you got to find a way not to waver and continue to trust yourself, continue to trust the process, and just find belief in yourself again. I feel like I'm starting to do that, also with the help of the coaches and my teammates."
Last season, Barkley finished -44 in rush yards over expected, per Next Gen Stats. He has flipped the script early in 2022, sitting with 112 RYOE, tops among all running backs (and behind only Lamar Jackson).
Barkley has been the Giants' best player through three weeks. He sits tied with Nick Chubb for most rushing yards after contact with 246 through three games.
The running back has generated 70-plus rush yards in all three games in 2022, a feat he surpassed just once in 2021, earning 102 yards in Chicago in Week 17. It was apropos Barkley's best game of 2021 came in Chicago, the place he suffered that brutal knee injury.
"Last year is when I really felt the hurdle everyone wants to talk about. I kind of felt that was the hurdle for me last year," Barkley said. "Obviously we didn't finish the last game last year -- we didn't play well at all as a team. For that one, to go back to Chicago, the place where I tore my knee, to have a 100-yard game, obviously it's all about the team, but to look at it from my mindset, to go to that place that kind of put everything in the past for me and be able to go into the offseason healthy. I was able to show glimpses of that, especially inside running. I just wasn't breaking long runs, and now that I have that confidence back all that stuff is starting to happen again."