Saquon Barkley Sees Time On Defense In First Career Pro Bowl Appearance
There are plenty of reasons for football fans to tune into the Pro Bowl every year when the NFL’s top players get to showcase their talent in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
There’s having fun in a football game, and there’s terrorizing the league’s offensive line coaches with nightmares. That’s exactly what the NFC did when it put running backs Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott on defense as pass-rushers in the fourth quarter of the AFC’s 26-7 victory.
Barkley only received three offensive touches on Sunday afternoon, but his insertion on the defensive side of the ball alongside Elliott was frightening. After wide receiver Mike Evans (also playing defense) intercepted Deshaun Watson, the NFC defense started to lateral the ball to try and pull off a big return. Barkley got the ball into his hands and put on the most impressive display by any ball-carrier on the day.
The rookie running back was the fourth out of five players on the NFC who touched the ball on the play. Barkley had the ball for about 11 seconds and made at least six or seven would-be tacklers miss before passing it off to Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
At his usual position, Barkley was unable to make a lot of noise due to the additional Pro Bowl rules that deter teams from running the ball, as the officials blow their whistles quicker on contact to help prevent player injuries. He ran the ball twice for 10 yards while hauling in one of his two targets in the passing game for seven yards.
Philadelphia Eagles safety and three-time Pro Bowler Malcolm Jenkins called Barkley “a generational talent” after playing alongside him for the NFC this past week. He wasn’t the only player to sing his praises at the Penn State product.
“There’s always a lot of hype around offensive players, and you know you’ve got to see and feel it to believe it right? Well I could see it, and I felt it,” Chicago Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. “He’s a special player.”
The former Penn State standout made his first Pro Bowl after a record-breaking season in the Giants’ backfield. Barkley tallied 1,307 rushing yards, 721 receiving yards, and 15 total touchdowns on a dismal New York team that finished 5-11. He won the Pro Football Writers of America offensive rookie of the year award and is among the finalists for the NFL’s rookie of the year award.
Voting is open for the award until the NFL Honors Show on Saturday, and you can vote for Barkley here.
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