The New York Giants pulled off a jaw-dropping 31-28 comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday. However, this triumph came with its own set of challenges—most notably, star running back Saquon Barkley sustained an ankle injury in the game’s final moments. This unfortunate development has cast doubt on his availability for Thursday’s face-off with the San Francisco 49ers, a game that’s critical for the Giants’ momentum.
Next Man Up: Giants’ Offense in a Barkley-Less Scenario
Without Barkley, a linchpin in the Giants’ offensive strategy, the team will need to lean on other talents to carry them against a formidable 49ers squad. Here are three key players who must rise to the occasion if Barkley is sidelined.
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1. Matt Breida: The Potential RB1
If Barkley is unable to play, the onus will likely fall on Matt Breida to assume the RB1 role—a golden chance for the 28-year-old to demonstrate his abilities. Although mostly confined to a backup position throughout his career, Breida has exhibited the capability to be a reliable secondary back, boasting a career average of nearly five yards per carry.
In the absence of Barkley, Breida is expected to split snaps with rookie Eric Gray. This scenario will also prompt the Giants’ coaching staff to tweak their play-calling, possibly asking quarterback Daniel Jones to make more plays with his legs to augment the running game. While Breida isn’t anticipated to set the world on fire, he could offer a degree of steadiness that the Giants sorely need.
2. Darren Waller: The Go-To Receiving Target
Newly acquired star tight end Darren Waller already made a splash in Sunday’s game, leading the team with six receptions for 76 yards. Without Barkley, the Giants are likely to opt for a pass-heavy approach, turning Waller into Jones’ most reliable target.
Even when Barkley is on the field, Waller already plays a significant role in the Giants’ aerial attack. His importance can only skyrocket if the star running back is unable to participate.
3. The Offensive Line: The Foundation That Needs to Hold
Heading into Week 2, the narrative around the Giants was simple: their offensive line was nothing short of problematic. With left tackle Andrew Thomas missing Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury, concerns only escalated. However, the offensive line stepped up when it mattered, allowing just seven pressures and providing Jones with decent pocket protection.
Should Barkley be unavailable, a heavier reliance on the passing game will place additional demands on the O-line. They’ll need to maintain their improved performance, particularly against a fierce 49ers defensive line led by star Nick Bosa. There may still be lingering questions about the long-term viability of the Giants’ O-line, but their performance this Thursday will be crucial, Barkley or no Barkley.
Preparing for Every Scenario
Although Barkley’s status remains uncertain, it’s crucial for the Giants to plan for all contingencies ahead of their Thursday matchup against the 49ers. The aforementioned players will need to make significant contributions for the Giants to succeed.
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