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Eli Manning awaits return of Beckham, Barkley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Odell Beckham, Jr., who has practiced but not played in a game, and Saquon Barkley, who played in one game but is not currently practicing, continue to be the subject of numerous inquiries from reporters as the Giants prepare for their third preseason game.

And coach Pat Shurmur continues to be guarded in his responses regarding two of his key offensive players.

The Giants return to action Friday night in the annual MetLife Bowl against the Jets. Might Beckham, who in practices shows no signs that he had surgery last October to repair a broken ankle, make his 2018 debut?

"We'll see," Shurmur said today. "…You knew I was going to give you a real short answer on that one."

Is Beckham physically ready to play in a game?

"He's doing really well in practice here, so we'll see where he's at," said Shurmur, who then repeated for perhaps the 10th time in training camp his mindset about the three-time Pro Bowl receiver. "Again, coming back from injury, so we'll try to be smart with him."

Barkley, whose 39-yard run on the first play was a highlight of the preseason opener vs. Cleveland on Aug. 9, has not practiced since mildly straining his hamstring catching a long pass in practice eight days ago. He did not play last week in Detroit.

Questioned how Barkley is, Shurmur said, "Coming back. As we all know, he tweaked his hamstring, and he's training really well and doing more and more each day. We like the path he's on. … We'll see how it plays out."

Is the coach being more conservative with one of his star players in the preseason than he would be in the regular season?

"Conservative?" Shurmur said. "I don't know about conservative. I think we would want to always try to be smart. I'm not really fond of the word 'conservative'. I just think we want to be smart."

One player with a keen interest in the well-being of Beckham and Barkley is quarterback Eli Manning.

"Not concerned with Odell, just because we got years of experience, and you get a lot of reps in practice, which is important and nice," Manning said. "We've had game experience together. Now Saquon, that's different, just because he's a rookie and missing some valuable time. I know he's getting mental reps. It's different than practice reps, it's different than game reps. Hopefully, he can get back soon."

Beckham's 313 regular-season receptions on throws from Manning ties him with Hakeem Nicks as the most prolific catcher of Manning passes. In practice, the fifth-year pro is running, cutting and jumping as he always has. Despite their productive history and the receiver's return to good health, Manning and Beckham are putting in extra time to get back in sync, both during and, quite noticeably, after practice, when they often work by themselves.

"(We) just work on some things – work on a route that maybe we missed, or a new route maybe we missed in practice," Manning said. "Or maybe I work the other side of the field, because of the coverage, we didn't get the work there. Just because we missed some time in the spring, just try to make sure you get those routes, kind of get that throw so when you get a game, it's not the first time you're throwing it. Just get an extra rep on a few things."

Because he hasn't been practicing, Barkley's recent work with Manning has been more mental than physical. The rookie back has lived up to his reputation as an inveterate asker of questions on the field and in meetings.

"I think it's a good way to stay engaged," Manning said. "It obviously shows that he's watching practice, he's listening to the game plan and so he wants to understand what his route would be on this concept or on this check and this and that. So it shows he is engaged, he is listening. He has good questions, so it's clear in his mind and that's a great thing to have. I encourage all those rookies, 'Ask questions, if you don't know, ask. That's what we're here for. Don't go out there not knowing what your assignment is, ask us and go do it right and play fast. We always want you to do that.'"

Certainly makes sense. Now we just have to wait for Barkley to play again to put into action what he's learned.