TEMPE, Ariz. — Saquon Barkley needed help getting off the field Sunday when the star running back sprained his ankle late in the Giants’ 31-28 blowout win against the Arizona Cardinals, and players who spoke publicly Monday acknowledged they’ll be ready to play without him when they face the 2-0 49ers on Thursday.
“I think obviously we’re going to miss him,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “He’s a big part of what we’re doing. Guys are going to have to step up, and it’s not going to be just one. Everyone’s going to raise their game and step up, and I’m confident we can do that.” We have a lot of guys that can step in and do different things and help out.”
“I think it’s tough,” linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “(Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) will always say he’s our best defensive player because when he’s on the field running the ball, we’re on the sideline. Saquon is an incredible leader, he’s going to be missed by this team, but we’re going to have ‘next man up’ mentality. Everybody in this league has to. We’re going to do everything we can to get ready for this next game.”
“I think he’s doing well,” Jones said of his conversations with Barkley. “He’s a mature guy. Obviously he’s disappointed and I feel for him, but he’s going to work hard to come back. Yeah, he’s going to come back.”
Coach Brian Daboll spoke to the media as Barkley underwent further testing in Tempe on Monday morning.
“Whatever it is, we’ll have a plan in place,” Daboll said. “If he can play, he can play, and if not, then we’ll have the other guys ready and ready to go.
The Giants have three other running backs on the roster, veteran Matt Breida, third-year pro Gary Brightwell and rookie Eric Gray, who has yet to take an offensive snap.
“I think all the running backs that we have on the roster, the reason they’re on the roster is because we believe in them,” Daboll said.
As is so often the case, Barkley was one of the main catalysts for the Giants as they overcame a 28-7 deficit in the third quarter to earn their first win of the season. He scored touchdowns on a one-yard run and a nine-yard reception and led the team in both rushing (63 yards) and receiving (six catches, tying him with tight end Darren Waller).
Last year, Barkley did not miss a game due to injury for the first time since his 2018 Rookie of the Year season and helped lead the Giants to the playoffs with a career-high 1,312 rushing yards.
But yesterday, with 1:08 left and the Giants driving for the game-winning field goal, Barkley’s lower right leg bent awkwardly under a pileup for a two-yard gain. He was helped off the field, and when he got to the Giants bench, he slammed his helmet on the ground in frustration.
This is the latest in Barkley’s painful litany of injuries that includes an ankle in 2019 and 2021 and a torn ACL that cost him virtually the entire 2020 season. He will now miss an undetermined amount of time.
“Obviously having him with us is what we want, but things happen,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “It’s part of the NFL. Obviously we don’t want guys to get hurt, but unfortunately that’s part of it. We’ve got to push through it. Part of the NFL season is pushing through adversity whenever you get it, so that’s what we’re going to try to do make.”
The Giants still have plenty of talented ball players, including wide receivers Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins and Jalin Hyatt, plus Waller said Barkley’s absence won’t necessarily put more pressure on players to produce in the passing game.
“I still think it takes a healthy level of balance with any offense,” Waller said. “I believe in Breida, GB (Brightwell), guys like that who step up. EG, (Gray). Guys who have been playing games since April will come and deliver. You can’t just back off every time. You have to have a certain level of balance and I believe that these guys will hold up their end of the bargain. Whatever is required of us in the transition game, we’ll be willing to do.”
Jones expressed confidence that the offense will operate at a high level of efficiency.
“I think we’re going to have things in the game plan and certain ways to get guys in different spots and use their skills,” Jones said. “So my job is the same, to execute and get the playmakers the ball in space and let them do their thing. I don’t think it changes my mindset or how I need to do my job or run the offense.” “
Breida is expected to get most of the snaps. A seven-year veteran and second-year Giant who is in his third season in the offensive system, he played for the Buffalo Bills in 2021 when Daboll was their offensive coordinator. Ironically, his first three seasons and most of his career were in San Francisco from 2017-19. Breida played in 83 regular season games with 20 starts and has 523 rushing attempts for 2,515 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus 104 receptions for 844 yards and six scores.
“I’ve been with Matt for a while,” Daboll said. “He knows our system; he’s prepared every week like he’s a starter, and that’s what everybody needs to do. I’d say all three guys work really hard and prepare like they’re going to play the whole game.” “
“He’s extremely reliable,” Jones said of Breida. “He’s an explosive runner, he’s got speed, breakaway speed and he just always does the right thing. Just a guy you can count on to come in and play well. He played really well last year and in spots this year.” he plays well, so a guy you can definitely count on.”
In their immediate future, the Giants need to do just that.