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Barkley hits the ground running with record start

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley has yet to finish his first month in the NFL, and he’s already had a big impact on both the league and the Giants.

His 216 rushing yards give him the best three-game start to a career for a Giants running back in 71 years, and places him third all-time. Hall of Famer Tuffy Leemans ran for 238 yards in 1936, and Hank Soar had 217 yards the following season.

Barkley has 190 more rushing yards than any other Giants back, and he is sixth in the NFL. His 68-yard touchdown run vs. Jacksonville is the longest run in the league this season. Including his 137 yards on 21 receptions, Barkley has gained 353 yards from scrimmage, the NFL’s seventh-highest total.

But the Giants’ first-round draft choice could face his toughest test to date when the 1-2 Giants host the 2-1 New Orleans Saints Sunday in MetLife Stadium.

The Saints have had the stingiest run defense in the NFL on a per-carry basis through the first three weeks; their opponents are averaging just 3.0 yards a carry. Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Atlanta combined to average just 82.7 rushing yards in three games, which leaves the Saints sixth in that category.

“They definitely pop out on tape,” Barkley said today. “They’re fast, they’re a physical team. They’ve got some great linebackers over there, great defensive linemen over there. We’ve faced great defenses before. We got to continue to just work on ourselves, and continue to come in every single day and work hard. I think everything else will take care of itself.”

Barkley will inevitably be compared this week to Saints running back Alvin Kamara, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Kamara leads the NFL with 430 yards from scrimmage (141 rushing and 289 receiving).

“Alvin Kamara is a tremendous player and they target him quite a bit,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said.

“(He is) definitely exciting,” Barkley said. “I definitely respect Kamara’s game. He’s a different type of player. He can catch the ball out the backfield. He can run in-between the tackles. Pretty much a do-it-all back. Definitely a threat for that team that we’re going to have to focus on. On my case, I just have to focus on myself and focus on what I can do to help the offense.”

*After the Giants’ victory in Houston on Sunday, Eli Manning said Shurmur had “condensed” the offense. The coach was asked today what that meant.

“What I tried to do was make sure we were running things that we were familiar with, and then by the way they played coverage, I was able to repeat some calls and that’s always a good thing,” Shurmur said. “By the way it played out, we had just as much offense but by the way it got called, because we were able to complete some stuff. By the way the game got called, it probably seemed that way.”

*Shurmur was asked about

the conversation he had last week with Ereck Flowers, after the fourth-year pro was replaced at right tackle by Chad Wheeler.

“We talked about it, we were making the change,” Shurmur said. “Yes, we communicated. When I say I, it’s we as coaches communicate with the players frequently about things we see and like, and things we see and don’t like. That’s the day-to-day business that nobody sees. But we’re just open and honest about it. I think the players have responded well to that, but I do think that’s the way you’ve got to live your life.

“(Flowers said), ‘Ok, Coach.’ That was it. Not enough there for a mini-series, just ‘ok’. Then there’s the part of the conversation of, ‘You need to be ready to go, because you’re the third tackle, so keep your mind into it and get back out there, and play well.’”

*Seven Giants did not practice today: tight end Evan Engram (knee), linebacker Connor Barwin (knee), cornerbacks Eli Apple (groin) and Antonio Hamilton (groin), defensive lineman Damon Harrison (knee), wide receiver Cody Latimer (knee) and running back Jonathan Stewart (foot).

Linebacker Olivier Vernon, who has yet to play this season because of an ankle injury, was limited.

*The Giants signed wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo to their practice squad. He was with the team throughout the spring and summer before he was released on Sept. 1. Etta-Tawo first joined the Giants’ practice squad on Dec. 19, 2017. His only preseason reception was a 41-yard touchdown vs. New England.

The Giants had an opening on their practice squad after Garrett Dickerson was signed to the active roster yesterday.

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