After initially suffering an ankle injury in the Giants’ comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported New York’s dual-threat running back Saquon Barkley would be listed week-to-week, but wouldn’t play on Thursday against the 49ers.
“Giants RB Saquon Barkley has a sprained ankle, source said after tests today,” Rapoport tweeted. “He’ll be out Thursday and considered week-to-week.”
But on Tuesday, the narrative surrounding Barkley’s availability took a major turn on Tuesday, just two days before the game.
In his weekly press conference, Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll didn’t rule out his star ball-carrier for Thursday’s NFC showdown vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
Daboll was asked specifically if Barkley was ruled out for Thursday.
“I’m not saying that he’s out yet,” Daboll said. “He’s a quick healer. I’m not saying he’s in or out, we are going to take it all the way up with him to Thursday, but he feels a lot better today, I just talked to him, so we will see where we are at.”
Saquon Barkley Playing Changes 49ers’ Approach
While this could be viewed as a tactic to throw off the 49ers coaching staff that has likely been preparing a defensive game plan without Barkley in the equation, it’s a major deal if he does in fact suit up and is healthy enough to play on Thursday night.
San Francisco is currently ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense and against the run, but much like Christian McCaffrey, Barkley has the rare attributes that cause nightmares for opposing coaches.
Barkley closed out the victory over Arizona with 17 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown, while adding another six receptions for 29 yards and another touchdown as a receiver.
While Daniel Jones deserves credit for leading the Giants’ offense to a second half comeback as they trailed 20-0 entering the third quarter, Barkley was a major factor — if not the biggest — in that impressive feat.
He found the end zone as a runner with 3:27 remaining in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 14 points, and caught the first touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game.
Again much like McCaffrey, Barkley also serves as a decoy for opposing defenses, with the versatility to line up as a wide as a wide receiver, or open up gaps in the passing game off play-action.
NFL reporter Ryan Dunleavy summed up Barkley’s importance to the Giants’ offense perfectly.
“#Giants Saquon Barkley 66 of 68 offensive snaps yesterday,” Dunleavy tweeted following the Cardinals game. “Unheard of for a running back. Tough pill for the “plug in anyone at RB and get the same production” crew.”
It’s impossible to know how Steve Wilks and the 49ers defensive staff are preparing for the Giants’ offense with the chance Barkley may now play, but they will have to adjust accordingly. Without Barkley, Wilks and company would likely force Daniel Jones to beat San Francisco through the air, while using their talented pass rushers to create havoc for the New York quarterback.
Barkley’s presence on the field changes everything. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Radio Host Says Giants Will Suffer Without Saquon Barkley
If Barkley isn’t able to play on Thursday, one national radio host believes New York will have a tough time competing with the 49ers.
Boomer and Gio cohost Greg Giannotti, who goes by “Gio” on the show, made his feelings clear about New York’s chances without Barkley on the road against the 49ers.
“They’re definitely going to suffer,” Gio said. “There are some teams that don’t have much of a dropoff from running back to another, and there are teams that do. The Giants are one of them.
“It just sucks, especially when you’re in a position where you need every offensive weapon against a team like the 49ers.”
The longtime Giants’ fan believes Nick Bosa and company will be too much for New York to handle, especially without the team’s most dynamic playmaker available.
“I want to feel like the Giants have a shot,” Gio said. “But without one of their best offensive weapons…short week, it’s just a bad spot.”