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Saquon Barkley's Return: Will the Star Be The Same?

Breaking down the former rookie of the year's return to action and how effective he will be in the 2021 NFL season.

New York Giants HB and former offensive rookie of the year HB Saquon Barkley will hit the gridiron for the first time in 2021 on September 12th after tearing his ACL in Week 2 last season.

Barkley has been the most dynamic and threatening piece of the New York offense since coming into the league in 2018. In the two seasons he was fully healthy, Barkley was a 1,000-yd rusher twice and accounted for 23 total TD's. Fans and fantasy owners will expect Barkley to return to his old form this upcoming season.

Should we consider Barkley a lock to be his old self? Let's look at the stats of running backs before and after tearing their ACL.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

  • 2010- 230 Rushes, 1467 Rush YDS, 5 Rush TD, 6.4 Y/C, First Team All-Pro

  • 2011- Tears ACL Week 2

  • 2012- 285 Rushes, 1509 Rush YDS, 5 Rush TD, 5.3 Y/C, Pro-Bowl

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

  • 2010- 283 Rushes, 1298 Rush YDS, 12 Rush TD, 4.6 Y/C, Pro Bowl

  • 2011- Tears ACL Week 12

  • 2012- 348 Rushes, 2097 Rush YDS, 12 Rush TD, 6.0 Y/C, First Team All-Pro, Rushing Leader, Comeback Player of the Year.

Charles and Peterson had remarkable returns. Both of them improved their numbers the season following their injury. Peterson's season was especially remarkable. Rushing for over 2,000-yds and attempting way more than 300 rushes is insane- especially returning from a blown knee.

ACL Injuries are Common for RB's

Long-time NFL running back Frank Gore suffered two ACL tweaks in college. These two detrimental setbacks had the league skeptical of Gore. The Niners ended up drafting the University of Miami half back in the third round. Gore would go on to have a superb career, racking up four 1st team All-Pro selections. The 37-year-old recently stated he is planning to return for the 2021 season.

Is this really the norm for players rebounding from ACLs? While Charles and Peterson would make us think so, there are more instances where players have not been the same. Rashard Mendenhall, Kevin Smith, Ronnie Brown, Deuce McAllister, Edgerrin James, and Terrell Davis all regressed after suffering an ACL injury.

Big Apple Barkley

So where does Barkley fit in? His first couple of seasons in the NFL would suggest he is on a trajectory towards a career similar to Charles and Peterson. Signs would point to Barkley returning to his old self. New York fans would certainly hope this is the case. In a season with the highest expectations since 2017, the Giants need Barkley healthy and playing to his fullest capabilities in a tough NFC East division.

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