The Giants’ incredible healing running back was in good spirits Thursday.
Saquon Barkley was feeling so upbeat at his locker, he was demonstrating the jukes and cuts he had put on teammates in this week’s practices.
“I had like my best practice [of the season on Wednesday], to be completely honest,” Barkley said. “I was out there like dah-dah dah, dah dah.”
He shifted his shoulders and head back and forth, rapid fire, to simulate leaving a defender in the dust.
“I feel pretty good,” he said with a glint in his eye.
This is everything the Giants (7-5-1) need to hear approaching Sunday night’s pivotal game against the Washington Commanders (7-5-1) seeking their first NFC East victory this season.
They can’t win if they can’t run the ball, especially against a Commanders team that leads the NFL in average time of possession (32.59). They won’t win if Barkley doesn’t pick it up.
He has only 357 rushing yards on 108 carries for a 3.3 yards per carry averaging in the Giants’ last six games. They are 1-4-1 in that stretch. So it’s important to hear he’s healthy, and it’s refreshing to hear Barkley’s honest criticism of his own recent play.
“I feel like I’ve been lacking the last couple of weeks [in] being the guy and making explosive plays, especially when it matters most,” Barkley said. “I haven’t had a big run in a long time. The last couple of weeks, the run game has been — I don’t want to say non-existent. But they’ve been doing a really good job of stopping the run game or stopping me… If I can get going, it’s going to help the team and it’s going to help put us in a position to win.”
It’s admittedly a bit remarkable how Barkley has gone from questionable with a neck injury and getting MRIs, to playing 20 snaps in last Sunday’s blowout loss to the Eagles, to being fully healthy in a matter of a week.
Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka added to the mystery Thursday by saying he had never thought of Barkley as limited during Sunday’s loss to Philly, even though Barkley had played sparingly before being shut down in the third quarter of a blowout.
“I never thought of it that way,” Kafka said of any limitations. “Saquon came ready to play and we played him as we saw fit.”
This came after Brian Daboll had been reluctant to admit Barkley’s injury had even occurred in practice last week.
Kafka’s characterization appeared to back up Barkley’s postgame assertion that “the reason why I didn’t play as much was not because of my neck.” So that begs the question: what was the reason?
Well, having Barkley healthy for the Giants’ biggest game of the season doesn’t hurt, with the winner likely playoff bound and the loser nearly cooked.
“Coming into work, the energy’s high,” Barkley said. “I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
The Giants are excited to have their best player available with no restrictions — whether it’s due to an injury or some other outside factor — for their biggest game of 2022.
SMITH SUFFERS SETBACK
The Giants placed OLB Elerson Smith (Achilles) on injured reserve just four days after he blocked an Eagles punt to set up the Giants’ first touchdown. The second-year edge rusher won the Giants’ internal offseason workout competition, a series of metrics to measure players’ spring gains, but missed the season’s first seven games with a lower right leg injury suffered in training camp. In five games, Smith assisted on one tackle on defense, made two special teams stops and blocked Sunday’s Arryn Siposs punt … The Giants signed undrafted rookie DT Ryder Anderson off their practice squad after recording his first NFL sack last week, and the team inked former Packers DT Jack Heflin to the practice squad … Players had to record their Sunday Night Football introductions for NBC on Thursday after practice. The Giants weren’t guaranteed to play on NBC this season until the NFL recently finalized that they would play this Sunday and not during NFL Network’s Saturday triple-header.
GIANTS INJURY REPORT
Did not participate: CB Adoree Jackson (knee), CB Nick McCloud (illness), OLB Smith (Achilles), OL Josh Ezeudu (neck), OL Shane Lemieux (toe). Limited: DT Leonard Williams (neck), TE Daniel Bellinger (rib), OLB Jihad Ward (concussion), WR Richie James (concussion). Full: LB Micah McFadden (neck/ankle).
COMMANDERS INJURY REPORT
Did not participate: OL Saahdiq Charles (concussion). Limited: RB Antonio Gibson (foot), OL Andrew Norwell (shoulder), RB Brian Robinson Jr. (quad), WR Cam Sims (back), CB Benjamin St. Juste (ankle), DE Chase Young (knee). Full: OT Sam Cosmi (ankle), LB Jamin Davis (thumb), DE Montez Sweat (concussion), OL Trai Turner (knee), WR Dax Milne (foot), DE James Smith-Williams (concussion).