Giants ‘Hard Knocks’ Episode 1 key moments: Focus on Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and Brian Burns

The first episode of HBO’s “Hark Knocks: Offseason with the New York Giants” debuted on Tuesday night, and there was plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes content for Big Blue fans to dig in to.

From early offseason talks about how to handle the Saquon Barkley situation, to how the Brian Burns trade started with a light-hearted conversation at the Senior Bowl, the first episode had plenty of interesting moments.

Here are the key takeaways…

What to do with Saquon?

The first episode of “Hard Knocks” heavily featured discussions about the running back position, including Joe Schoen and his staff discussing both what to do with Barkley, who was about to enter free agency, and what other running back options would be available, including Devin Singletary, who ultimately signed with Big Blue.

The Giants at least entertained the idea of franchising Barkley with the intention of trading him, but that notion was quickly dispelled.

“Franchising and trading him, I don’t think is realistic,” Schoen said to his player personnel staff at one point in February.  ….There’s no guarantee that we could trade him.”

The episode all showed Schoen speaking with Giants owner John Mara about what the possibilities were in regards to Barkley, saying that the plan was to let Barkley test the market and then come back to see if the Giants could match.

“In a perfect world, I’d still like to have him back,” Mara tells Schoen. “Until we can prove that we can have a decent offense without him.”

“(Daniel Jones) is making a lot of money and… we’ve got to figure out is he the guy, so we’ve got to protect him,” Schoen responds. “We need to put resources there.”

At one point, Schoen also says that last year’s negotiations with Barkley, when the Giants ended up placing the franchise tag on him, “was 10 years off my life dealing with that.”

Is Daniel Jones “The Guy?”

The quarterback position was a huge question mark for the Giants this offseason. We know now that the team tried but ultimately couldn’t move up in the draft to select North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, and this first episode shows that Giants certainly still have long-term questions about Jones, especially with his recent injury history.

“My plan is address the offensive line at some point here in free agency. We’re sitting at 6, so there’s a chance there’s an offensive weapon there. This is the year for Daniel,” Schoen tells Mara. “The plan all along was to give him a couple of years. Is he our guy for the next 10 years, or do we need to pivot and find somebody else?”

“You’ve got to have a quarterback in this league to win. The reality is Daniel Jones is coming off an ACL,” Schoen says in a sit-down with the HBO crew. “He’s had three injuries over the last couple of years, and that’s real. You can’t ignore it, whether it’s through free agency or the draft. We’ve got to have something in place as a contingency plan.”

Schoen is also seen defending Jones for his performance, when healthy, last season, citing the revolving door that was the offensive line.

“The reality is—facts – three serious injuries in two years. We need to protect ourselves,” Schoen says to his staff. “He didn’t have much of a chance last year. … In Miami we had three practice squad guys playing for us (on the offensive line). You could have Pat Mahomes and he can’t f—king win behind that offensive line.

“I’m not giving up.  Like, he’s under contract for three more years. Just protecting ourselves because the best predictor of the future is the past.”

Burns, baby, Burns

NFL trades often originate from casual conversations and key events like the NFL Combine, and the Giants landing Burns was no different.

Down in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl, Schoen struck up a conversation with his good friend and new Panthers GM Dan Morgan, who was a player for Carolina when Schoen started there as a scouting assistant.

What started as shooting the breeze, quickly developed into more concrete trade talks, and while the trade wasn’t executed right then and there, it planted its roots in the sidelines of the practice fields in Mobile.

Schoen: “You guys want to move up to six from 33?”

Morgan: “You want to give us two ones for Burns?”

Schoen: “No. I mean, yes, but—”

Morgan: “Or a one and something?”

Schoen: “You’re heading in the right direction.”

Eventually, the Giants ended up trading a second-rounder, a fifth-rounder, and a 2025 conditional fifth-rounder for Burns and fourth-rounder. They then gave Burns a five-year, $150 million contract.

Hiring Shane Bowen

One other interesting moment from the premiere episode was Brian Daboll telling Schoen that he was going to offer Bowen the defensive coordinator job, with Daboll going through some of Bowen’s previous defensive rankings to make his case for the former Titans DC.

“Can you get our run defense to look like this please?,” Daboll joked to Schoen.

“He’s got a clear vision of some of the things that he wants to do,” Schoen told the cameras. “Some of the success that he’s had, I thought were important.”

Bowen was also seen meeting with the Giants front office to explain his defensive scheme and what kind of players work best.

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