New York Giants: Steve Smith calls for increasing Saquon Barkley’s role

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants running game hasn’t been anything special this season so far. Saquon Barkley made it back by week 1, but it still remains to be seen if his knee is strong enough to keep up with the NFL game after a long recovery process.

After the first two games, Barkley’s numbers have been anything but impressive. He rushed for 57 yards in the Thursday Night Football loss, but the majority of those yards came on a single big run for 41 yards at once. Outside of that run, Barkley didn’t look like the generational prospect the Giants expected from his college tape and healthy rookie season.

With that being said, not everyone blames Barkley himself for his struggles. The Giants have been cautious in utilizing him, and many have accused the coaching staff of not giving him enough touches or being creative enough in getting him the ball. Those critics include former Panthers receiver Steve Smith, who believes the Giants need to put the ball in Barkley’s hands more before a judgement can be made about his explosiveness.

“We will never find out if Saquon Barkley is getting his explosiveness back if all you are doing is sitting back and throwing the ball,” Smith told the New York Post.

“They didn’t do a good job of getting him in rhythm — and this is a wide receiver talking about getting the running game going. It really limited to see how much explosiveness he had or didn’t have. When you drop and throw the ball as much as they are trying to do, it makes things very difficult to judge.”

Should the Giants use Barkley more?

It looks like the Giants might be taking a cautious approach with Barkley to protect him from the risk of reinjury.

However, the current strategy hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in the running game. A common point brought up about the loss to Washington is that the Giants could have ran the clock out while they had a lead, if they were more confident in their ability to move the ball on the ground.

If the Giants really want to get the expected value out of Barkley, they’ll have to get the ball in his hands more. It’s unknown whether having more touches would improve the running back’s numbers. But with the team 0-2 and public sentiment at a low point, the Giants don’t have very much to lose from trying it out.

After all, focusing on the passing attack just hasn’t worked out two weeks in. Even after having what may be his best game, Daniel Jones was unable to lead the Giants to victory on his own after the running game failed to make much happen.

New York Giants: Evan Engram out and Saquon Barkley questionable

New York Giants, Evan Engram

Even going into the second game of the season, the New York Giants might not have all of their offensive weapons on the field. The team was missing Evan Engram in the season opener and Engram was confirmed today as set to miss his second straight game with a calf injury from before the start of the season.

He’s not the only player that will miss the Thursday Night Football appearance against Washington. In slightly more minor news, special teamer Cam Brown and guard Shane Lemieux will also miss the game.

Saquon Barkley hasn’t been ruled out of the game like these other players. Despite that, he’s listed as questionable and there’s also no guarantee that he will play. While Barkley played in the opener, it’s clear that the staff are taking a cautious approach with him and that he wasn’t playing at his best while coming back from injury.

While some of the poor performance can be attributed to bad run blocking from the offensive line, a theory which is backed up by the lack of performance from alternative option Devontae Booker, Barkley ultimately didn’t utilize much of his unique skillset in the loss.

He looked like any replacement level running back in the league, and while Barkley himself refused to use his injury as a crutch, we may have to consider the possibility that his return was a bit too quick.

Devontae Booker is still waiting in the wings to take a larger role if Barkley is held back to recover longer before being brought back into the fold fully, but based on his own poor numbers from last Sunday, that may not be the most encouraging prospect for those hoping to see an improvement in the rushing attack against Washington.

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley says what needs to change for Giants

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

After another season opener, many New York Giants fans have feelings of deja vu. It’s another year, but the outcome was the same as usual and the presence of new weapons hardly helped the offense in putting up more than 13 points against the Broncos.

While the game had the return of Saquon Barkley from an ACL tear, you could be forgiven for not noticing him on the field. Barkley was only able to pick up 26 yards on 10 carries, and backup running back Devontae Booker didn’t do much better with 7 yards from 4 carries. In other words, getting Barkley back wasn’t enough to cover over the other problems with the Giants offense.

But what does the running back himself have to say about the performance? Barkley’s confidence in the offense hasn’t changed – but after the game, he stressed the need to capitalize. That’s something the Giants have rarely done on a consistent basis over recent years.

Barkley speaks following season opening loss

“We just got to go out there and capitalize that’s been the thing for the last, what I guess it’s, wow, my fourth year? That’s just what it’s been,” Barkley told reporters. “We have the talent. We have the players. Logan (Ryan) kind of said it after the game, it was a lot of situations that the players, we didn’t capitalize on it. Whatever the call is or whatever, we didn’t capitalize.”

He spoke about the team’s belief in each other, and in their coaches. Barkley blames the offense’s struggles on not putting it all together and coming away with points when there’s a chance to score.

“That’s what we gotta do a better job (of). So when we get down in the red zone then we got down in the lower red zone and the red zone like three times or four times and came away with no points. So, we’ve got to change that.”

Belief is important, but it doesn’t win games on its own. The Giants have come into the last few seasons optimistic, only to end up with the expectations being quickly lowered after poor starts eliminate the team’s chances of winning the division.

While nothing Barkley said is technically wrong, it’s clear that patience is running thin for the same outcomes happening every year. Something will have to change soon. Either the Giants show a large improvement in their early season games, or changes are made at the organizational level.

New York Giants: Evan Engram sits on Thursday, Saquon Barkley close to 100 percent

New York Giants, Evan Engram

For much of the offseason, a fear was that the New York Giants could end up missing running back Saquon Barkley in their season opener. However, now that we’re only days away from that opener, it looks like a different player is likely to miss the week one matchup with Denver. That player is Evan Engram, who may once again have to sit out with an injury and this time miss the first game of the season.

It’s looking more and more like Engram will miss the game, and the latest evidence is his absence from practice on Thursday. On the Giants’ injury report for the day, a number of players were listed as limited – but Engram was notable for not participating entirely, and was the only player on that part of the list.

There is good news, however. While the Giants may not have Engram for the game, it looks at this point like they will have Saquon Barkley on the field. That’s been the feeling for the past week, but Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett made some statements on Thursday that might support the idea of Barkley getting back for week 1.

Garrett on Barkley getting back to 100 percent

“Yeah, a lot of confidence in him as a player and I think he’s done a great job to get himself back healthy and 100 percent,” Garrett said when asked by reporters whether Barkley was the same player he’d seen before.

With Barkley looking 100 percent in the eyes of the team’s offensive coordinator, it doesn’t seem like there’s much holding the player back at this point.

Losing Engram will be a blow to the offensive depth of the Giants for Sunday’s game, but the offense should still look like an improvement from what we saw in the preseason if Barkley and the team’s new additions at wide receiver play.

The offensive line will remain a point of contention for the foreseeable future and for good reason, but the Giants are far from uncompetitive with their first opponent of the season. Given the way the injury news is looking recently, the Giants should be able to put more weapons on the field than they’ve featured on any previous roster in years.

How much better is the New York Giants’ offense with Saquon Barkley on the field?

New York Giants, Jason Garrett, Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley

When the New York Giants drafted Saquon Barkley 2nd overall in 2018, they saw a generational running back that could change the dynamic of a modern NFL offense. Barkley, who the Giants paired with WR1 Odell Beckham Jr. during his rookie season, helped lead the unit to 23.1 points per game on average.

Fast forward to 2020, and the Giants or struggling to average over 17 points, as Barkley suffered significant knee damage in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears, holding him out for the remainder of the season. During Barkley’s rehabilitation, the Giants rolled with Wayne Gallman at running back, and while he served valiantly, they simply didn’t have the talent at receiver to help quarterback Daniel Jones maximize his talents.

In fact, the Giants have done very little to help Jones succeed in the NFL, building a liability of an offensive line and failing to provide him with high-end wide receiver talent.

However, the return of Barkley will help the offense tremendously, as Jones has earned a 92 passer rating with Barkley in the backfield compared to 78.9 without him. In addition, the offense averaged 22.5 points per game, with the star back on the field since 2019 compared to 17.5 without him.

We know how polarizing a player like Saquon can be, as he tallied 2,028 yards from scrimmage in his rookie season, paired with 15 total touchdowns. His success entirely depends on the playcalling, and it seems coordinator Jason Garrett will get him more involved as a receiver this upcoming season than a traditional back.

If the Giants were smart, they would steal a few pages out of the New Orleans Saints’ playbook and how they use Alvin Kamara, one of the most deadly pass-catching running backs in the NFL. Barkley has that type of talent, the Giants have forced him to run inside zone and power, which doesn’t fit his mold entirely.

The best way to maximize Barkley’s talents is to use him on outside zone runs and running back sweeps, giving him more time to pick holes and make the defenders miss. In the passing game, Barkley can be utilized on angle, seam, flat, and wheel routes to get him more involved. Barkley has a 73.4% catch rate in his career, which is better than most receivers. Of course, the majority of his receptions come in the shorter portions of the field but still averages 8.2 yards per reception.

The offense has more elements at play with Barkley in the mix, as he commands attention from opposing defenses. However, it is a combination of Barkley and a WR1 that really creates havoc for opposing coordinators, as they can’t simply stack the box to shut down the running game in fear of a top receiver taking advantage. With fewer linebackers and safeties playing in the box, Barkley will have more room to work with and play action will be more effective.

Against Denver in Week 1, anticipate a heavy running game and play-action scheme, as they have a tremendous group of corners and safeties, which will limit how successful the Giants are moving the ball downfield via the passing game.

New York Giants name 2021 team captains ahead of Week One

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants are days away from kicking off their regular season. The team has announced its new team captains for the 2021 season with kickoff only six days away. There are a few players returning as captains with a couple of new names also added to the mix.

New York Giants 2021 Captains

Offensive Captains:

  • Daniel Jones
  • Saquon Barkley
  • Nick Gates

Defensive Captains:

  • Blake Martinez
  • Logan Ryan

Special Teams Captains

  • Jabrill Peppers
  • Graham Gano

Offense

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is entering his second season as a captain of the team. This is his third career season, one that fans expect to be a big breakout year. He is a carryover captain, along with star running back Saquon Barkley. Saquon was named a captain in 2019 and has maintained that role ever since.

The new captain on offense is starting center Nick Gates. Entering his third season with the team, Gates has been named a captain. Nick Gates has proven to be the definition of a good teammate and a hard worker during his time in New York.

Defense

For the first time in his nine-year career, Logan Ryan is a captain. Ryan spent many years as one of the best players on the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots defenses but was never named a captain. The Giants signed Ryan late last offseason and he instantly proved himself as one of the team’s best leaders. The Giants have awarded Logan Ryan with a captain’s patch in his second year with the team.

Blake Martinez is a captain for the second consecutive season. Martinez was one of the Giants’ splash signings in last year’s free agency period. He quickly proved himself as one of the best players on the team and had a career year with the Giants last season.

Special teams

Graham Gano is another new captain on the Giants. Another player entering his second season with the team, Gano earned his captain’s patch after having a phenomenal 2020 season where he made 31 of his 32 field goal attempts.

Jabrill Peppers earned his captain’s patch for the second consecutive season. Peppers brings that energy every Sunday and leads the team’s defense and special teams. Peppers contributes primarily as the team’s starting safety, but also as a punt returner. The Giants are expecting a huge year out of Peppers in 2021.

New York Giants enter regular season as 2.5 point underdogs in week 1

new york giants, rodarius williams

Headed into the regular season, Vegas is betting against the New York Giants. That won’t surprise everyone after a preseason where the Giants failed to win a game, and where their offense still performed slowly in some areas even when the starters were on the field. However, the expected margin of victory for the Broncos may be slimmer than some expect.

The Broncos are only a 2.5 point favorite against the spread based on the current odds from Odds Shark, a prediction that’s far from counting out the Giants entirely in their week 1 matchup.

The odds, of course, could change this week based on what the Giants announce in relation to injuries. The most obvious injury decision that could affect the outcome is the matter of whether or not Saquon Barkley will play. The Giants are seemingly waiting until the last minute to make an announcement, even as Barkley’s current progress points to a week 1 return being likely.

Tight end Evan Engram, meanwhile, is considered a long shot to play according to Ian Rapoport. Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney are currently practicing, but the staff haven’t seen enough to make a decision on them playing or not.

All of these names are impact players in their own right for the offense and the odds could still shift in one direction or another depending on whether they play.

While the Broncos are favored, they also have some question marks of their own such as whether Teddy Bridgewater will live up to expectations and the final result is far from a foregone conclusion in Denver’s favor.

New York Giants injury update: Saquon up, Engram down ahead of Week 1

Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are just one week away from taking on the Denver Broncos in Week 1 of the regular season. Injuries have begun to mount ahead of opening day, but the Giants are optimistic star running back Saquon Barkley will be available after tearing his ACL, MCL, and partially tearing his meniscus last year against the Chicago Bears early in the season.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Barkley is gearing up for Week 1 and is expected to make his first appearance since the injury. Barkley, who has played in only 15 games over the last two years, is looking to resurrect his 2018-self. During his rookie campaign, Barkley amassed 2,028 yards, 15 touchdowns, and didn’t fumble a single time.

With Barkley on the field, the offense is far more productive and successful. The addition of wide receiver Kenny Golladay should also contribute heavily toward a more efficient unit. Barkley had his best season with Odell Beckham Jr. on the field, as the star wideout commanded attention from opposing defenses, which took players out of the box and allowed Saquon to have more success running the football.

Quarterback Daniel Jones will also be ecstatic about the return of his most lethal offensive weapon. Jones has barely enjoyed any time with Barkley on the field, and when he is, Jones’s numbers skyrocket. Jones has a passer rating of 92 with Barkley in the backfield and 78.9 without him. The offense averaged 22.5 points per game with Saquon on the field since 2019 and just 17.5 without him.

In addition to Barkley making a return, the Giants are also expecting TE Engram Engram to miss Week 1 against Denver. Engram suffered a calf injury against the New England Patriots in the final preseason game of the off-season. Engram, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, was plagued with drops last season, picking up eight in the category and was directly correlated to six interceptions.

However, Evan is capable of being a great player who changes the dynamic of the offense. Last season, he tallied 654 yards and one score, earning his first Pro-Bowl appearance. Some might say that the Giants are better off without Engram in the lineup, as they will look to Kaden Smith and potentially Kyle Rudolph as their primary TE’s to open the year.

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley reportedly has “strong chance” to play in week 1

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The longest running storyline of the offseason for the New York Giants may be the recovery of Saquon Barkley. Barkley’s recovery has been in the news ever since it began last year, but we may be close to getting an answer on when the running back will actually return. Despite some worries about Barkley potentially missing weeks of the season, it looks like there’s a stronge chance we could actually see him in the season opener.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has reported that Barkley’s recovery is headed in the right direction and that it’s looking more likely that he’ll play in week 1. However, the team’s final decision isn’t set to come until next week.

The Giants have been careful about speaking on Barkley’s return all offseason so far. While the question of the return date has come up many times, multiple figures associated with the Giants including John Mara, Dave Gettleman, and Joe Judge have claimed there is no set return date for Barkley.

Barkley himself has given similar answers during this offseason, usually claiming that his recovery process is still day to day.

There have been some positive pieces of news recently in Barkley’s recovery process. The most recent is Barkley returning to hard contact drills in practice, a change from when he was wearing a red no contact jersey.

It’s hard to say definitively right now whether Barkley will be back for the opener or not, but if he is on the field, it will be a major break of luck for the Giants. After the team’s top offensive additions sat during the preseason, week 1 may just be our first chance to see the new look offense on the field in full.

New York Giants: Barkley and Rudolph out, others will be game time decision

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are dealing with a number of injuries right now, and it’s unclear which players are in a position to return for the final preseason game. We do know, however, that two anticipated returns won’t happen in this game after Joe Judge ruled out the possibility already.

Those players are Saquon Barkley and tight end Kyle Rudolph, both of whom have mounting pressure to play in week 1. Judge confirmed on Friday that neither player will take the field against New England.

“He will not play in this game, no. We’ll dress him out. He’ll go through warm up. We’ll continue him on through ramping up. He won’t play. Him or Rudolph won’t play in this game,” Judge told reporters when asked about Barkley.

But more encouragingly, Judge also claimed that the Giants are still making decisions on some players.

Some decisions are still being made

“The other players – there’s a lot of guys where there’s still decisions being made. We’ll see how they come out today and even some tomorrow. We’ll see how they’re going to look for the game. So, I can’t give any final answers on a lot of guys,” Judge said.

The list of injuries includes three wide receivers – John Ross, Kadarius Toney, and Kenny Golladay.

With Toney being the team’s first round draft pick and Golladay being their biggest free agent signing, this has caused some reasonable concern that Daniel Jones won’t get a chance to build chemistry with his most important targets in a game situation before week 1.

But as the Giants generally rested their starters for the first couple of preseason games, it’s clear the staff aren’t prioritizing preseason experience for their key players.

We know Jones will play one half in the final game, but as of now, it remains to be seen if his new weapons will be there on the field with him.