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Saquon Barkley learning about being an NFL running back

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

By TOM CANAVAN

AP Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) There's no doubt Saquon Barkley has the talent to be great NFL running back.

Speed, power, quickness, smarts, good hands. The Penn State product who the New York Giants grabbed with the second overall pick in the draft has it all.

What he needs is knowledge. He has to learn a new playbook for coach Pat Shurmur and then pick up all the little adjustments that turn a college star into one of the NFL's elite. And it all has to be done in roughly four months.

"Physically, he looks the part," two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning said of Barkley. "I'll be excited to see him with pads on, in the open field, and see what he can do. He has done a good job."

Barkley has done everything asked of him so far. He also has drawn some attention. Veteran defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison quipped he couldn't wait until training camp so he could "hit his ass."

Barkley laughed about it Wednesday.

"I'm just happy that we're on the same team, and he only gets to hit me maybe once or twice a year, rather than facing him for a whole game," Barkley said.

Barkley has spent a lot of time the past few weeks picking the minds of veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, Manning and his coaches. When he is not doing that, he is watching videotapes of Cardinals running back David Johnson and the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell blocking and running inside and outside the tackles.

"There is always room for improvement on anything," Barkley said Wednesday after the second day of a mandatory three-day minicamp. "Playbook is definitely something that I feel like I am getting more comfortable with. I am seeing the field a lot differently. Understanding where I have to be in my pass concepts."

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Barkley needs to learn the little adjustments that need to happen before and after snaps. He also has to learn how to adjust to facing different defenses each week.

So not only does he need to know the plays, he has to understand what happens when Manning changes plays, where the protection slides, and where he needs to be.

Barkley believes good backs run on instinct. He also says they have to help their offensive linemen by setting up their blocks.

"For me, I did it so natural in college that I didn't even notice I was doing it," Barkley said. "Now, understanding and seeing the play before it develops and seeing the linebacker overflowing, that is how you set up cutback lanes."

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher has enjoyed watching Barkley.

"He's a special player," Bettcher said. "He's a guy that's going to create nightmares for any defensive coordinator, and matchup problems on any given down."

After Thursday's workout, the Giants will be off until training camp opens in late July.

Barkley intends to go home to Pennsylvania for his sister's Sweet 16 party and later train in either Florida or California, or a mixture of both.

He is also looking forward to his first season with the Giants and being in the shadow of New York.

"At State College, it is like its own little city. It is a small city," he said. "Then, in New York, you walk around and people know you. It is not like, `Wow they know me, I have fame,' but it is like people notice you and what you are doing. I have not played a down of football yet, so I am just handling myself."

ERECK FLOWERS: Ereck Flowers says his adjustment to playing right tackle is going well. He admitted it was tough being told he was being moved from left tackle to the right side after the signing of Nate Solder as a free agent.

"They have to do what is best for the organization," said Flowers, the Giants' first-round pick in 2015. "I don't have any personal feelings about it. For me, I want to prove myself every time I hit the field."

The Giants did not pick up the fifth-year option on Flowers' contract in the offseason, so he will be a free agent after the season.

NOTES: NFL Films was at Giants practice on Wednesday and Shurmur was wired for sound. ... CB Janoris Jenkins says fellow cornerback Eli Apple has matured after a troubled season in 2017. "He understands that there are going to be people that love you and people that hate you," Jenkins said of Apple. "No matter how good you play, it is still going to be the same.'

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Updated June 13, 2018

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