EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The debut of No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley had its up and downs Sunday, including a rough first half and a 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of a 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The touchdown came with the Giants in desperate need of a big play. Barkley eluded three would-be tacklers and broke free down the right sideline for his first career touchdown. Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack admitted he was "shook out of his socks" on the play before Barkley outran free safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. to the sideline.
It put Barkley over 100 yards rushing in his NFL debut.
"It was a great run. That's why we drafted that young man," coach Pat Shurmur said.
It was Barkley's first career run for over 10 yards. He credited his coach and teammates.
"Yeah, that touchdown run was a great call, first of all, and it was blocked up perfect," Barkley said. "The O-line did a great job on the front side creating movement, [tight end] Evan [Engram] did a great job on the backside with a cut block, and I was able to get one-on-one with the guy and make him miss and use my speed on the sideline to get in the end zone."
Barkley finished with 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against what is expected to be one of the league's top defenses.
"I mean, I knew right away. The first run and the first couple of times I tackled him, I said, 'This kid has something,'" defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. "Obviously, you see it on tape, but we didn't get to watch a lot of tape on him. It's his college tape. Coming into the NFL against a team like ours, and making some of the plays he made, that kid's going to be special.
"I traded jerseys with him after the game because I was like, 'OK, if he can stay healthy, he might one day be a Hall of Famer. So now, I'll get his jersey when he's young.'"
It didn't all go smoothly for the Giants and Barkley in his debut. His first half -- and really, the first three quarters -- was a struggle. He had just 12 yards on eight carries in the first half and dropped a pass.
But Barkley really didn't have much of a chance. The Jags were getting to him before he even reached the line of scrimmage. On five of Barkley's eight first-half carries, he was met at or behind the line of scrimmage.
But he improved as the game progressed. Barkley made a big play in the passing game on the final play of the third quarter, when he took a screen pass for 18 yards.
But it was the impressive touchdown scamper where he kept his balance along the sideline that opened some eyes.
"He's a special player, now," Jaguars safety Barry Church said. "That guy's a lot faster than I thought he was. He's just super athletic. He's going to be a problem in the league for a while. Hat goes off to our D-line. We pretty much bottled him up the whole game except for that one explosive one. Other than that I think we did a good job."
The big-play ability of Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. gives the Giants hope that their offense can do more than it did in Week 1, despite the struggles of their offensive line. Beckham had 11 catches on 15 targets for 111 yards in his first game back from a broken ankle.
Even though he didn't get into the end zone, he thoroughly enjoyed watching Barkley make it a one-score game with 10:39 remaining in the game. It gave the Giants a chance.
"I've told him this multiple times, I've had dreams of seeing Barkley running down the field, breaking for the end zone," Beckham said. "I went to a school, LSU, where I watched Jeremy Hill come out the backfield multiple times. There is no better feeling than running the ball and somebody takes it 60, or however long it was, to the house.
"The only thing I ever told him was be you. You don't have to do anything for anybody else, any outside pressure, anything anybody said, you don't have to be that, just be you."
That means running hard and fast and making plays out of the backfield. Barkley dropped a pass in the first half, but seemed to settle as the game progressed.
He had 116 of his 128 total yards in the second half.
"Your mindset changes just throughout the game because you get a feel for it; you get a feel for the O-line, you get a feel for what their defense is doing, how they're attacking you and how they're playing you and it's kind of just repetition and play-by-play," Barkley said. "I feel like, personally, as I continue to go out this season, it's a long season and I continue to get reps, I'm only going to continue to get better."
Next week's test on Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys could be a different story. The Cowboys' defense isn't expected to be at the Jaguars' level and Barkley appeared to be getting warmed up as the game progressed.