Saquon Barkley officially the centerpiece of Giants' offense

LANDOVER, Md. -- New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t available for Sunday’s 40-16 demolition of the Washington Redskins. He was back home in New Jersey dealing with a bruised quadriceps.

It didn’t matter. The Giants' offense had running back Saquon Barkley, its new centerpiece.

It’s a reality that has been unfolding ever since the bye week, with or without Beckham in the lineup. The Giants are running everything around Barkley, who was drafted second overall this year.

“He’s a tremendous player and I think we’re starting to figure out that this offense runs through him a little bit,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “When we’re running the ball, it sets up everything else. It sets up the play action and it sets up so much.”

It has looked like the appropriate approach. The Giants (5-8) won for the fourth time in five games on Sunday, and Barkley had 197 total yards and a touchdown. He rushed for a career-high 170 yards on 14 carries, including a 78-yard run in the second quarter.

It was Barkley’s fourth touchdown run of 50 or more yards. The Giants had had three such runs over the previous 10 seasons. That's how special this rookie has been. Even when he did make a mistake, dropping a pass in the first quarter, Barkley went to offensive line on the bench and took the blame. He promised to atone for the mistake.

“He’s a terrific player. Again, he’s a generational spirit on the sideline. I think I’ve said that before,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “There are a lot of things about him that make him special.”

If the rookie running back wasn't trucking Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, he was snagging the ball one-handed with his left hand. If he wasn’t cutting across the field and making defenders miss, he was hitting 21.91 mph down the left sideline on a touchdown run. It was the best max speed on a rushing touchdown this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. It topped the 21.74 mph Tennessee’s Derrick Henry hit on Thursday night.

“Gotta hit 22 [mph],” Barkley said when told of his speed.

That was one of many impressive moments for Barkley and the Giants on Sunday, when everything seemed to go right. It was the most points they scored in a game since the 2015 season.

The Giants took advantage of Redskins quarterback Mark Sanchez; their defense forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown for the third time in four games.

Manning had time and open receivers and hit them for chunks with regularity. He finished with three touchdown passes on 22 pass attempts.

“We’ve talked about it all along, but especially the past five weeks,” Shurmur said. “Everybody has to do their job and we’ve done a better job of protecting for Eli. Running the ball. Playing a better style of team offense. I think that helps every quarterback. I’m certainly pleased with the way Eli’s led us here.”

But for the Giants, the machine now begins with Barkley. His presence alone opens things up for wide receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram and Beckham, when healthy.

At least that appears to be the plan now and moving forward. The Giants are averaging 31.4 points per game over the past five weeks.