The New York Giants have a game on Sunday. Not a practice, or a scrimmage, or even a preseason exhibition game, but a real, live regular season game.
They will face the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team who accomplished the jump from 3-13 to double-digit wins and a playoff run in 2017 — the same jump the Giants want to make in 2018.
This will also mark the first time running back Saquon Barkley, will take the field in a game since the first week of preseason.
On being ready for Week 1
Saquon Barkley hasn’t taken a game rep since about the final five minutes of the first quarter of the first preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Barkley strained his hamstring the next week in practice and would miss the remainder of the preseason games. He did return to practice just before the Giants game against the New York Jets, but the question remains whether he is in “football shape” for the season opener.
Barkley said in reply, “A lot of people talk about football shape, and just being in shape regular. They don’t mean like their physical contact part of it. Obviously, that’s part of it, too. I still was able to take the physical contact within practice. I just didn’t go down to the ground, I got a little bit of it within the Browns. But, I feel I’m in really good physical football shape, because in practice, doing a little extra stuff with Stew (Jonathan Stewart) on the sideline – running, conditioning there. I was running the whole time when I was out. That’s more like track speed conditioning shape. So, the first day when I got back, I was a little winded. ... But I definitely feel pretty good in the football shape right now.”
“I definitely think I’m ready for a full load,” he added, with regards to week one against the Jaguars. “The way I’ve been preparing, the way I’ve been practicing. We got a whole bunch of great backs in our room. That’s going to help us in that area, too. I’m just excited for the game, excited to get the season started.”
The excitement among the team and the fanbase to see what Barkley can do was palpable before the game against the Cleveland Browns. Then Barkley took his very first carry as an NFL player 39 yards just like his many college highlights, and the excitement went to another level. Now, after not playing in three games, Barkley himelf is the one who is excited.
“I’m excited to show the team because, obviously, I only got a little bit of playing time there,” Barkley said. “I was able to make some plays happen in practice. I got to still be aware that it’s a long season and you have to take it game-by-game, and day-by-day. I’m just trying to get as ready as I can for this game – mentally and physically, and try the best that I can do, and try to do whatever I can do for my team to help them come out with a win.”
Would Barkley return kicks?
The Giants tried a variety of players as kick returners during training camp and the prepreseason, including Hunter Sharp, Kalif Raymond, and Cody Latimer. Barkley got a look as well, and while the Giants might be loathe to put the second overall pick on kickoff returns. Fears of injury echo through the minds of both coaches and fans, but Barkley did it in college — and was a weapon.
He wasn’t a frequent kickoff returner, but when Penn State needed a spark in Barkley’s junior year they would put him back to receiver kick-offs. Last year he returned 15 kicks for 426 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“I’ll be eager to definitely be in the mix of kickoff return,” Barkley said. “I did it in college. I was able to help my team out in college in that area. If they, or if I show that I’m capable of doing that for the Giants, why not? It’s definitely something I feel comfortable with, and I’m honestly willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. If that’s the job they want me to do, I would love to do that.”