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Saquon Barkley injury changes landscape for New York Giants

There are short- and long-term questions raised by Barkley’s injury

New York Giants v Chicago Bears
This is the play on which Saquon Barkley was injured.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Saquon Barkley injury is a seminal moment for the New York Giants, impacting both the 2020 version as well as perhaps having long-term ramifications.

Let’s start with this. The Giants on confirmed the diagnoses of a torn ACL, meaning Barkley will have surgery and is done for the season.

So many thoughts race through your head in the wake of the injury.

Short term

What is the impact on the Giants’ offense? They nearly pulled off a come-from-behind victory on Sunday thanks in large part to a quality second-half performance by Daniel Jones. But, Jones remains a second-year quarterback who will need some type of running game week-in and week-out to have a chance to succeed.

I have long been a believer that you don’t need a superstar running back to have a solid rushing attack. You need quality run-blocking, good play-calling, capable backs and a commitment to the run.

That theory is about to be tested. The Giants, after an awful run-blocking game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, did make some progress Sunday. Take away three scrambles by Jones and the Giants ran 15 times for 54 yards. Not great, but an OK 3.6 yards per carry with just two negative plays.

Can Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman carry the load? How much and how quickly will Devonta Freeman help if the Giants are able to sign him?

Does this change expectations for 2020? Barkley is/was the Giants’ best player. Easily. No argument. Still, and this is in no way his fault, the Giants haven’t been good with him. Whatever the record ends up being, this season was always about the Giants being better at the end than the beginning and feeling like they are finally climbing out of the hole they have been in for most of the last eight years.

It’s hard right now not to feel like the world has come crashing down and that the season is, and the Giants are as a whole, a disaster. Still, those expectations probably don’t change. This makes the challenge of Judge’s rookie season even greater, but it remains possible to come out of the 2020 season feeling better about the team’s direction.

How do we judge Dave Gettleman? This is probably part short- and part long-term. Can the roster Gettleman built play competitive without its best player? How do you judge Gettleman’s work with Barkley sidelined? Long term, how do you judge whether Gettleman deserves to stay or go after this season with Barkley, the centerpiece of the Giants’ offense, sidelined?

Long term

First, let’s talk about the injury. The doom and gloom that Barkley’s career is over or that he can never be a great player again is foolish.

Adrian Peterson gained 2,097 yards rushing in 2012. That is after suffering a devasting injury in Week 16 of the 2011 season in which he tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee. At 35, Peterson is still playing at a high level.

Nick Chubb tore the PCL, MCL and LCL in his left knee while also dislocating the knee and suffering cartilage damage as a college player in 2015. He gained 1,494 yards rushing for the Cleveland Browns last season and is considered by some the league’s best running back.

To just write Barkley off is ridiculous. That said, the success of Peterson and Chubb doesn’t guarantee a return to glory for Barkley. It does, though, put an obvious question there. We need to see it.

Which brings us to the other question.

Money.

What do Barkley and the Giants do now?

This is Barkley’s third season. It’s becoming standard practice for top tier running backs to look to get paid after three seasons of their four-year rookie contracts. It was expected that Barkley would look to follow suit at the end of this season.

Can Barkley and his agent, Kim Miale, actually do that now?

If they do, can the Giants actually fork over a big-money deal without getting Barkley back on the field? Paying Barkley big money going forward is fine if he is prime Peterson or Chubb. If he’s Todd Gurley? Not so much.

A massive financial investment is exceptionally risky if the Giants aren’t sure what they are getting in return.

So, lot of questions today. Answers? Those are to be determined.