What They Aren’t Telling You About Eagles’ RB Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley, Philadelphia Eagles
NFL Analysis Network

The Philadelphia Eagles were the toast of NFL free agency after signing running back Saquon Barkley to a three-year deal. Barkley was viewed as the best halfback of the free-agent class, and the Eagles deviated from their own general philosophy by signing him.

Philadelphia typically doesn’t pay running backs big money. That’s why it let Miles Sanders walk last offseason. It’s also why it had no interest in bringing back D’Andre Swift.

Well, Philly’s dismissal of Swift also probably had a lot to do with the fact that it planned on adding Barkley all along, but even if the Eagles struck out on Barkley, they probably wouldn’t have re-signed Swift.

So, why did Philadelphia break its own mold for Barkley?

If you listen to fans and media pundits, Barkley is going to revolutionize Philly’s offense with his versatility and his elite rushing ability.

But is that really the case?

Barkley spent the first six years of his NFL career with the New York Giants. He got off to a fantastic start during his rookie campaign, making the Pro Bowl right off the bat. However, since then, it has actually been a bit of a rough go for Barkley.

The 27-year-old has not played played a single full season since his rookie year in 2018. He did play 16 out of 17 games in 2022, which just so happened to represent his most productive season since his debut year. But in Barkley’s other four seasons, he played 13, two, 13 and, most recently in 2023, 14 contests.

He missed three games this past year with an ankle injury.

Barkley is very injury prone, and he may be declining. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2023. During his second Pro Bowl campaign in 2022, he logged 4.4 yards per attempt. That’s decent, but it’s hardly groundbreaking, and it’s a long way off from the five yards per tote he logged in 2018.

Running backs do not have a long shelf life in this league, and for a guy like Barkley who has missed considerable time with injuries throughout the course of his career, you have to wonder if paying the Penn State product $12.5 million annually is the wisest use of resources for the Eagles.

When healthy, there is no doubting Barkley’s ability. He’s terrific. But the operative word there is “when.” Again, Barkley has really only had two healthy seasons, and all of the injuries he has incurred since entering the league—including a torn ACL—may have sapped him of some of his magic.

On paper, Philadelphia looks outstanding. It has Jalen Hurts under center. Barkley in the backfield. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith on the outside. There is tight end Dallas Goedert. Plus, the Birds have a great offensive line, although it may take a big hit without Jason Kelce in 2024. The loss of Kelce isn’t getting enough attention, both from an on-field and a locker-room standpoint.

But this is largely the same Eagles squad that lost six of their last seven games last season, including an embarrassing Wild Card Round playoff loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Is there really any evidence to suggest that Philadelphia has shaken off those bugaboos? Remember: Philly didn’t replace head coach Nick Sirianni even though many felt he lost the team.

The idea that Barkley is going to walk through the door and significantly elevate the Eagles’ offense makes sense in theory. Again, when he is right, he is really good. But that’s the problem. Barkley is rarely 100 percent, and even when he is healthy, he doesn’t look like the same player from five years ago.

We’ll see if Saquon Barkley can rediscover his old form in the City of Brotherly Love.

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