Who wil have the better season?
Asking someone to choose between Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice is like asking them to choose between a Ferrari and a Bentley. Both are solid cars. One might be a bit flashier, and have a bit more name recognition, but they’re both going to compete with the best, and the difference might ultimately come down to personal preference.
As a pure runner, Guice is better than Barkley. He’s more physical, more decisive, and he doesn’t get stiff behind the line. He has the balance through contact to stay on his feet and keep churning out yards, and he has the agility to make defenders miss and make plays in space and in traffic. Guice’s mentality also serves him well; At a position as up close and personal as running back, having that electric personality can bode well for a running back and an offense. Guice has that as well.
Barkley’s true value, however, comes from his proven receiving ability and his multipurpose skill set. In this regard, Barkley has the advantage over Guice. He has the athleticism to line up anywhere, and he’s still a very dangerous runner, although not as brutish or quick with his decision making as Guice.
For two running backs who are so close in value, their situations make all the difference. As far as scheme, Guice and Barkley will see similarities between Shurmur and Gruden. With the Washington Redskins, Guice is coming into an offense with a quarterback and a coach who both put tremendous value in running backs as receiving options. Shurmur, hailing from Andy Reid’s west coast coaching tree, should share this trait.
When looking at personnel, the two running backs’ situations begin to differentiate. Much of Saquon Barkley’s production will depend on those around him. Can Eli Manning rebound after a season in which he lost both his job, for a time, and his confidence? Is the offensive line up to par after a busy offseason? Is the receiving core good enough?
The Washington Redskins’ offense, too, has questions. But it also has valuable security. Jay Gruden is entering his fifth season, and he should be more than comfortable with the team he has. Alex Smith is not only a proven quarterback, but he’s always been at his best with good running backs to compliment his skills; Guice and Smith should trade off in this regard, much like we saw Smith do the same with Kareem Hunt. Guice also has a more stable offensive line to run behind, and with his decisive running style, he can better make use of the holes that open and close quickly in the NFL.
It’s a very close battle, but cases can be made for both Guice and Barkley. On the surface, Barkley’s talent, and his notoriety as the No. 2 overall pick, make him a perceived lock to be the best running back in this rookie class. But, in light of his slide into the second round, Derrius Guice has been unforgivably underrated. His situation is more favorable than Barkley’s. That could make the difference in an NFC East that grows more competitive by the minute.