This is supposed to be the era of professional football when the running back isn’t all that important. From the West Coast offense to the Spread, the need for a 1,000-yard rusher has been replaced by the no-huddle, burn-’em-with-the-pass approach.

The Giants tried that under head coach Ben McAdoo and it didn’t work. The Giants went 3-13 in 2017 with the 26th-ranked rushing offense in the league, up from 29th the year before. Now they have Saquon Barkley and, suddenly, running back has become the most important position in the Giants’ offense again.

Barkley, the second-overall pick in the 2018 draft, is expected to make his NFL debut Thursday night when the Giants open their preseason schedule against the Browns at MetLife Stadium. With all due respect to Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants need Barkley to be the most unpredictable factor in the offense if they’re going to get quarterback Eli Manning another crack at a Super Bowl anytime soon. That process starts Thursday against the Browns.

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