The next LeSean McCoy? Ex-Penn State defender explains what makes Saquon Barkley special
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley looks on during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
FLEMINGTON, N.J. — Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is viewed by many as one of the most complete prospects to enter the NFL Draft in recent memory.
Flemington native and Hunterdon Central Regional High School product Jason Cabinda was tasked with defending Barkley every day in practice as a middle linebacker, and says that the multitude of ways that Barkley can beat a defense is what sets him apart from other backs.
“It’s just how versatile he is,” Cabinda told NJ Advance Media. “To me, he’s like a scat-back in a big-back’s body. That’s really the best way to put it.”
LB Jason Cabinda opens up about NFL Draft
Cabinda says he believes Barkley has the chance to follow in the mold of former Eagles and current Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy.
“He’s very LeSean McCoy like, but bigger,” Cabinda said. “He can make you miss. He can run you over. He’ll jump over you. He’s very versatile in the passing game. You can spread him out in the slot. He can run routes form the backfield There are just so many ways he can beat you.”
Barkley’s production at Penn State is impressive, but given the fact that he was often used as a decoy on run-pass options in the Nittany Lions offense and frequently out of the game by the fourth quarter during his junior season, his numbers could have been even more eye-popping than the 5,038 total yards from scrimmage and 51 touchdowns over three seasons.
Similar to the NFL career that the 5-foot-11 and 210 pound McCoy has built, Barkley is a threat to score as a runner, a receiver, or after having the ball directly snapped to him largely because of his ability to cut on a dime and burst upfield.
“The thing is, he’s a complete-back,” Cabinda said. “He blocks in the running game. He blocks in the passing game. He does it all. I think that’s what makes it special.”
Barkley has been projected in various mock drafts as high as No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, and to the Giants in others with the No. 2 pick.
Meanwhile, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman suggested that he has not seen a running back prospect over the past decade that compares to Barkley.
“In 10 years, no,” Gettleman said, when asked if he’s ever seen a running back with Barkley’s skill-set. “He can string together moves and get in and out of stuff … He’s unique. There’s no doubt about it. He’s big. He’s powerful. He can step on the gas at different levels of speed. And, he catches the heck out of the ball, and he sees the blitz pickup. He’s unique.”
The Giants recently hosted Barkley on a pre-draft visit to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, and Cabinda says he couldn’t give him a strong enough endorsement as a teammate or locker room leader.
“What really tops it off,” Cabinda said. “Is the kind of guy that he is off the field. I think that’s what really makes him so special.”
Matt Lombardo may be reached at MLombardo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL.