With the New York Giants gearing up for their rivalry game with the New York Jets— the NFL’s usual dress rehearsal weekend—on Friday night, one conspicuous absence likely to occur will be that of the Giants’ first-round draft pick, Saquon Barkley.
Of course, his likely absence will be of little surprise. Considering Barkley is tending to a balky hamstring injury, Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur and company are likely to play it safe with their prized rookie running back as his health is a major concern.
After all, the Giants have so much invested in the number two overall pick of this year’s draft and exposing Barkley to any further injury wouldn’t be in the franchise’s best interests. Along with Odell Beckham Jr., who has still yet to play in a pre-season game while he looks for a new contract, Barkley is just too prized an asset to have him be put in harm’s way in these next couple of weeks.
Considering we all were witness to Barkley’s awe-inspiring athleticism and game-breaking ability when he rushed for 39 yards on his first ever carry in the Giants’ first pre-season game against Cleveland, we should all have a good grasp on the immediate impact he will have on the Giants’ offense.
Now is Barkley’s injury concerning?
Of course, it is.
Saquon Barkley: Personally, the way my body feels, I feel good. I’m moving really well. But, talking to trainers and Odell, that’s when you try to push it and that’s when setbacks happen. I don’t want any setbacks. They have a great plan, and I’m going to follow it. #Giants
— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) August 22, 2018
He strained his hamstring more than a week ago and hasn’t even returned to practice yet. While a long-term absence seems unlikely given the reports coming out of camp, every day missed on the practice field is important reps Barkley could be gaining. Those reps would go a long way in pumping new life into the Giants’ offense and ensuring things will run smoothly when the games count for real.
It is an issue that can’t be simply swept under the rug.
Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning needs to know what he has in Barkley on the field and Manning admitted that Barkley’s absence is a concern.
More from Pat Leonard of the Daily News:
“Not concerned with Odell (Beckham Jr.), just because we’ve got years of experience and you get a lot of reps in practice; we’ve had game experience together,” Manning said of Beckham’s sitting out two preseason games and counting. “Now Saquon, that’s different, just because he’s a rookie and missing some valuable time. So I know he’s getting mental reps. It’s different than practice reps; it’s different than game reps. Hopefully, he can get back soon.”
Shurmur and the Giants are playing the long game here and maximizing the optimal health for Barkley— along with Beckham— is of crucial importance in the Giants quest for a rebound season. Heck, wrap Barkley up in bubble wrap if necessary.
He means that much to the team.
Granted, a lot of missed time for Barkley in the pre-season is not ideal, as his absence could put the Giants behind the eight ball when it comes to getting a rhythm down. However, for a 2017 season that was railroaded by injuries— namely Beckham— keeping all major playmakers healthy, happy and ready for the beginning of the 2018 season is the number one goal when the Giants break camp.
Again, while the short-term fallout will have its effect on rhythm and chemistry, the long-term health of Barkley is of much more importance moving forward. So while the Giants and their fans will be robbed of watching Barkley in the few weeks remaining of camp, to see him fully healthy at MetLife Stadium on September 9 for the Giants Week One opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars is what all Giants’ fans should be amped to see.