Heck, without him, New York would have been lucky to win four games. Barber averaged a ridiculous 5.1 yards per carry last season en route to a 1,662-yard season. For good measure Barber added 465 receiving yards, averaging eight yards per catch.
But now Barber is gone and it's clear that the Giants offense has plenty of making up to do. Clear to everyone but Barber, who was asked how he thought the club should replace him.
"I'd say that you don't try to," Barber told TGI. "You find the strengths of the guys that you have and put them in a position to be successful and help the team win."
Who better to run down the strengths of the new running backs than GM Jerry Reese?
"Well, for one, it's more than the two backs everyone is talking about," he said. "We have to talk about the stable of running backs. You can't leave anybody out. We have five players right now that can play in the National Football League."
Brandon Jacobs, the bruising 264-pounder, is first up at bat. He's had an excellent training camp and showed himself very well during the preseason.
"Brandon I think is going to be able to wear some people down," Reese said. "He's big and he's fast and he's powerful. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he pass protects like a guard in the backfield."
Next up is Reuben Droughns, whom New York acquired in the offseason from Cleveland for Tim Carter. Droughns already has two 1,200-yard seasons on his résumé.
"Reuben has skins on the wall," Reese said. "He's done it at a high level. We're not worried about him. He's going to contribute in whatever role the coaches want him to contribute."
At press time it appeared that Droughns was going to need to play a little fullback due to the injury to Robert Douglas.
Next up is Derrick Ward, who has done nothing but excel – when he's healthy.
"Derrick Ward has played really well," Reese said. "We've always said that Derrick is a good back, but he's always had health issues. He can return kicks for us; he can be the second or third back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He's strong."
Strong enough that he was likely to cost Ryan Grant a roster spot. At press time final cuts were yet to be made, but it appeared that Grant, whom Reese said had as good a camp as anyone, would be the odd man out.
The final piece of the puzzle is impressive rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, who has also excelled this summer.
"Ahmad Bradshaw is the change-of-pace guy that we've been looking for," Reese said. "We're also going to put him back there and see if he can do both return jobs for us."
So, as Reese alluded to, even attempting to replace Barber is hardly a one-man job.
"We have a stable of running backs," he said. "I don't know how we can replace Tiki. It's hard to replace a guy like him, but we have a stable of guys and I think we're going to put a power running game out there."
New left tackle David Diehl said the Giants would only be fooling themselves if they believed replacing Barber was going to be easy.
"He was tremendous. The last few seasons we ran for over 5,000 yards," Diehl said. "You can't say anything about that guy's work ethic and his toughness and his ability to play the game. It's hard to replace a guy like that.
"But that's where Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns come in. These are two guys that have worked extremely hard this entire offseason and this training camp to get themselves prepared for the season. These are two guys that are excited about the opportunity and have the chance to make the most of it."
But Barber will be missed not only on the field but in the leadership department as well.
"You miss the humor a little bit and the jokes," RT Kareem McKenzie said. "There's really not that much humor in camp this year. We miss that a little bit this year."
"You definitely notice that he's not here," Diehl added. "He was a great player and a tremendous guy. It was probably a little more awkward during the minicamps and OTAs. Not seeing him now, he's moved on; he's moved forward. He's in a different position and we all understand that. So I think the shock factor of having him gone is over."
Tom Coughlin admits the club feels the loss of Barber, but says they're doing the only thing they can do: move in the right direction.
"Tiki's last three years were exceptional," he said. "So you don't take players like that out of the lineup without some type of an adjustment, but you move forward, you move on. And I've seen some good things coming out of these players out of the running back spot and I've seen some good things."
Good enough to eventually replace Barber? Only time will tell.
TGI's recipe for success
As silly and fantasy football-ish as this might seem, TGI is going to illustrate just how the Giants can replace Barber this season, numerically at least. It will hardly be an easy task, but if everyone stays healthy and focused, believe it or not it can be done.
2006 Barber: 1,662
20007 Giants: Brandon Jacobs, 900; Reuben Droughns, 300; Derrick Ward, 262; Ahmad Bradshaw, 200
2006 Barber: 465
2007 Giants: Bradshaw, 250; Jacobs, 150; Ward, 65
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