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Alabama in the Pros

Giants RB Saquon Barkley ‘excited’ to have Evan Neal blocking for him

Alabama OT Evan Neal on the field in 2020 before LSU game
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics

Saquon Barkley looks to return to the production from his rookie season with the New York Giants.

The talented running back is excited about who the Giants took at No. 7 overall in the NFL Draft. New York selected former Alabama offensive tackle, Evan Neal. The 6-foot-7, 337-pounder blocked for Najee Harris (2019, 2020) and Brian Robinson (2021) to have 1,000+ yard rushing seasons. He helped Harris become a Heisman finalist in 2020 and Robinson be an All-SEC performer in 2021. Neal allowed 3.5 sacks in 28 games as an offensive tackle, assisting Mac Jones (2020) and Bryce Young (2021) to single-season school passing records. His protection guided Young to become Alabama’s first Heisman winner at quarterback.

RELATED: Former Alabama DT Marcell Dareus attempting an NFL comeback with Ravens

Barkley was taken at the No. 2 overall pick in 2018.

The former Penn State star won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for his performance of 1,037 rushing yards, 721 receiving yards (91 catches), and 15 total touchdowns. He would total a second straight 1,000-yard campaign (1,003) in 2019 before a right knee injury (ACL) happened in 2020. Barkley was limited to two games in his third year, and he finished with 593 yards rushing in 2021. He is an explosive player, but Barkley needs consistency from the offensive line. Neal will provide that for him as a rookie.

“Evan Neal, he’s a physical specimen,” Barkley said to the New York Daily News on Tuesday. “He came for the draft top-30 visit. All the draft people kinda were by my locker. He was there and I was like, oh my God, who is that? I saw him and was like I would not be mad if we would pick him up. I didn’t know he was gonna drop that far (to No. 7 overall), but great. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Brian Daboll, Giants head coach, told Neal on draft night, ‘It’s good to have another Roll Tide dude in here.’

Neal has blocked for talented players in Tuscaloosa, but now he will clear the way for a stud in Barkley.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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