The New York Giants held a full-padded practice Thursday in East Rutherford, N.J. Here is some of what we learned.
Saquon “trending in the right direction”
Saquon Barkley, who has been increasing his practice workload, could be ready for the Sept. 12 season opener vs. the Denver Broncos.
#Giants RB Saquon Barkley is trending in the right direction and has a strong chance to play Week 1 against Denver, per source. Team won't decide until next week and has been cautious so could still hold him back. But there is optimism. Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 of 2020.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 2, 2021
The Giants have been exceeding cautious with the star running back. Heading into Thursday, Barkley still had not done any contact drills in practice. He did not play in the preseason.
“There won’t be a decision made on Saquon until Denver week and it’s probably not going to be Monday,” head coach Joe Judge said earlier this week. “We’re going to go ahead and see how his body responds and where he’s at.”
Significantly, clearing a hurdle Judge had laid out for him, Barkley took contact for the first time on Thursday. He said his teammates gave him some “good shots” during the workout.
“Today felt good at practice and practicing with everyone on the team,” Barkley said after practice. “Think that was definitely needed.”
Barkley wouldn’t promise to play Week 1, and said those are “personal conversations” he will have with Giants’ decision-makers.
“I know Week 1 and the season is right around the corner, but I’m just taking it one day at a time. That’s the approach I’m going to take not just rehabbing, but from now on. I feel like that’s the best thought process to have throughout the season, not just for me as a player physically, but mentally, too,” Barkley said. “So, I’m just going to take it one day at a time and that’s my approach. I’m just happy to be back out there playing the sport I love.”
More injury news
Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney seem to be ramping up. Here is video of each from Thursday’s practice, via Pat Leonard.
The Giants look a lot different offensively with the possibility of Barkley, Golladay, Toney and Kyle Rudolph being available.
The bad news Thursday was that tight end Evan Engram (calf) did not practice.
Offensive line shuffle
The Giants, obviously unsatisfied with their offensive line depth and trying to cover themselves with left guard Shane Lemieux dealing with a partially torn patellar tendon, have been revamping their offensive line depth.
Center/guard Billy Price and guard Ben Bredeson were acquired in trades this week. Bredeson was reportedly on the field practicing with his new team on Thursday. Price is going through COVID-19 protocol and cannot physically join the team yet. Veteran center Matt Skura was reportedly added to the practice squad on Thursday.
For months, the Giants have defended their decision not to add any premier offensive linemen in free agency or the draft, expressing confidence in their young, unproven players.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett did so again Thursday.
“We have a tremendous amount of confidence in our guys up front. We have a young group, they’re getting better, they’re working hard, they’re working the right way,” Garrett said. “We’ll always evaluate what we think is best for that position group, for the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterbacks, and the runners, and try to put them in the best situation as we try to put a game plan together and call a game on Sunday.
Still, the Giants appear to be collecting experienced centers and there was a report that starting center Nick Gates has begun taking some practice reps at guard. So, a realignment might be in the offing if Lemieux isn’t able to hold up physically.
First, a quick note about practice reports. The type of reports we were able to give you when I attended training camp practices or joint workouts with the New England Patriots are no more. The Giants are now operating under regular-season media access rules, meaning that media in attendance only gets to see the stretching and individual work at the beginning of practice. No team periods. So, the “who does what” reports are not going to happen. Attendance is about all that will be forthcoming.
On the positive side, while the Giants are off for the next three days there will be a ton of content here at Big Blue View. Coordinators and position coaches were available to media on Thursday. We are going to take advantage of that by going position-by-position through the roster to see where the Giants were at the start of camp, where they are now, and where they hope to be when Week 1 arrives.