EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As he does every Wednesday, Pat Shurmur today opened his news conference with a recitation of the injured players who missed practice. Four players were on the list, including three on offense who catch and run with the ball – wide receiver Golden Tate and tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison (the fourth was safety Jabrill Peppers).
"Those guys, we'll see if they can make it back and we'll move on," Shurmur said.
That's how it's been all season for the Giants. They did not have a full complement of offensive players in any of their first 11 games. And that will likely be the case again on Sunday, when they host the Green Bay Packers. Engram, the Giants' leader with 44 receptions, could miss his third consecutive game with a foot injury. Tate, who is second on the team with 36 catches, is in the NFL concussion protocol after he was injured in last week's loss in Chicago. Ellison, who did not play vs. the Bears, is in the concussion protocol.
With so many important players missing, a greater responsibility is placed on those in uniform to move the ball and score points. That spotlight shines brightest on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and second-year running back Saquon Barkley. But those players insist they can succeed without the players who are sidelined.
"I think we're confident in the guys to step up," Jones said. "We've had guys go down, but I think every time someone's gone down, someone's stepped up and played well. So, I have a lot of confidence in those guys and I think we have chemistry across the board with a lot of different people. I have confidence in them and I know the team does, too, so we'll be ready."
"It's not that I feel the burden on me to do more," said Saquon Barkley, who missed three games with a sprained ankle. "That's just our season. We're doing this well, then there's something here. We have these guys healthy then this guy's not healthy. It's just up and down, up and down, up and down. Those are the things that every team faces and we've been facing this year. Hopefully, Tate can get back as quick as he can because he's a tremendous player. Just been playing great for us this season. I don't feel the burden on myself to pick it up. It's not just a one-man sport. That's why it's the greatest team sport ever to play. It takes all guys on the field. We've just got to click better to mesh better, to win these games."
Jones is doing his part, with a constantly-changing support cast. Last week, wide receiver Sterling Shepard returned to action after missing five games with a concussion. He caught five passes for 15 yards and had a 22-yard run. Without Engram and Ellison, rookie Kaden Smith made his first career start and Scott Simonson made his season debut after rejoining the team two weeks earlier. They combined for six receptions and Smith caught his first touchdown pass.
In the last four games, Jones has thrown 11 touchdown passes and just one interception. He has not thrown a pick in his last 100 passes.
"I think it's part of what we're doing on offense, especially in the red zone," Jones said. "I think we've had a good plan for it and we've been able to get open, and you're just trying to find the open guy. But I think we've got to continue to work on that and I think, like I said, guys have stepped up and made plays and gotten open, gotten behind people. I think kind of across the board, we've done a good job of preparing for it and then executing."
Barkley has averaged about 45 rushing yards in the five games since his return. He inexplicably had one yard on the ground vs. the Jets and one receiving yard against the Bears. Barkley has 461 rushing yards and 35 catches. Last year – when he played in all 16 games – his 11-game totals were 829 yards on the ground and 71 receptions.
Barkley and those who see him every day said neither those numbers nor the Giants' 2-9 record has sapped his enthusiasm.
"Because I think he's a young player, and he's grinding through the season," Shurmur said. "A lot of things went well for him last year, and he's grinding through this season. I think there's a lot to be learned from that. We all grind through it. At times, it's about perseverance and trying to get it right until you can push it over the top and win consistently. That's where we're at right now. I think we all understand that. … These guys know how to persevere. We're young and we've lost a couple of close games because of critical errors that we need to eliminate. They get that. They see that. But they understand the perseverance part of pushing through it, and I think Saquon is learning that as well. I don't think he's any different than any young player that's out there."
Barkley today disputed even the hint that the injury he suffered in Week 3 is the reason his current production isn't approaching the numbers he posted in a sensation debut season.
"Did I look hurt?" Barkley said to reporters about his 22-yard run in the fourth quarter in Chicago. "I know that's what you're going toward. Did I look hurt? No. So, let's stop making excuses that I'm hurt. I'm not hurt. Let's stop making excuses that I'm not 100%. No one is 100%. Like I told (a reporter) before, we had a conversation two weeks ago. I could pull up multiple clips, multiple clips, where you can look back and you can see I'm doing the same thing that I did in college or I did in my first year.
"This season is not going the way I would like it. No, I'm not going to point blame on anyone else, you have to point the fingers at yourself first. You got to be better, I got to be better. I'm going to keep working. I wrote in my notes today, 'The great ones figure it out.' I want to be great and I'm going to figure it out."
*Peppers has a back injury – a transverse process fracture - and if he can't play, rookie Julian Love will likely make his first NFL start.
"We'll have a combination with Love back there, Michael Thomas," Shurmur said. "We'll fill in. I thought Love did a good job with his first extended action last week. He's displayed a lot of the things that we thought he might have. We'll just try to build on that if for some reason Jabrill can't make it."
*Linebacker Kareem Martin, who has been on injured reserve since Sept. 11 with a knee injury, returned to practice today. The Giants can activate him anytime in the next three weeks.
View the best photos from Giants practice
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