EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley feels well enough to play better. Evan Engram feels well enough to just play.
The Giants' two former first-round draft choices each hope to help push the team to its first victory of the season Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons visit MetLife Stadium. Both teams are 0-2.
Engram missed the first two games with a calf injury he suffered in the preseason finale vs. New England. Although neither he nor coach Joe Judge would definitively declare that Engram will play Sunday, the fifth-year pro is trending in the right direction.
"I had a great week, a really good recovery," Engram said today. "Been doing really well with our trainers, they always do a good job. This week has been really fun back out there with the guys, so it's going to come down to the rest of today, tomorrow and then it's up to Joe. I feel good about it."
Judge spoke to reporters prior to practice.
"He had a pretty good day yesterday," Judge said of Engram. "We'll have to see him move around today. I wouldn't say it was a full load yesterday. I'd say he went through a full practice, but in terms of monitoring his reps and stuff with some things. So, we'll see how he goes today, but he keeps making progress for us. That's been a positive."
Being a spectator was particularly maddening for Engram because he had to watch his team lose to Denver and Washington. And he hoped to build on his productive 2020 season, when he played in all 16 games for the first time, finished second on the team with 63 receptions and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
"Not playing sucks and losing sucks, whether you're in the game or not," said Engram, the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2017. "I'm a part of it, I'm part of the team. Obviously, the last two games we didn't get the results we wanted, so not playing sucks and losing sucks.
"It's always frustrating not to be out there fighting with my brothers, but stuff happens, it wasn't in my control. All I could control was how fast I could get back. Obviously, it sucked not being out there. It was killing me, honestly, but definitely just trying to get back and get out there."
Without Engram, the Giants got six catches for 57 yards from tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. Engram has had at least six receptions in 18 games in his career. But he believes receiving is just one example of how he will help the offense.
"Just my versatility," he said. "I've been a really versatile player throughout the years here, was a versatile player in the same offense. I think our tight ends have been playing great, doing their jobs, executing and making plays, so I just want to come in and add to that and do everything I can to put the team in a position to win."
While Engram played every game last year, Barkley was limited to just five quarters plus one play before tearing his right ACL and undergoing reconstructive surgery. An arduous rehabilitation enabled him to return for the season opener. In two games, he has rushed for 83 yards on 23 carries, a 3.6-yard average, and caught three passes for 13 yards.
Barkley, who totaled 3,469 yards from scrimmage in his first two seasons, is accustomed to posting larger numbers. He did have a 41-yard run last week in Washington. But only one of his other 12 carries gained more than five yards and nine of them advanced the ball no more than two yards. Three lost yardage and a fourth went for no gain.
"(I've) got to keep doing a better job of eliminating the negative plays," Barkley said. "It felt good to open up and break a big one, but at the end of the day no points came out of that (the Giants punted). Myself, and us as an offense, have got to do a better job of capitalizing on our big plays, but the four and five (yard runs), just keep sticking with it. The 10 and 12 (yard runs) are going to come. Last week, we ran for like 160 yards (163, including 95 by quarterback Daniel Jones). We've got a nice little package going on, a scheme where Daniel is able to use his feet, so it definitely gives the defenses something else to account for in our run game."
Barkley, the No. 2 overall draft choice in 2018, went almost an entire calendar year without playing in a game. But he is reluctant to cite that inactivity as an excuse for his lower-than-usual numbers. Barkley is confident that as he continues to shed rust, he will work his way into a more productive rhythm.
"Last week, I felt like – I know it's going to sound weird, but my eyes and my feet were moving at the same pace," Barkley said. "I was seeing things and making cuts as the game got on, especially towards the end of the game, a lot better, so just continue to trust it, continue to watch film. When I come out here and I practice, get the most out of my reps. Those are the things that are going to help me to continue to grow throughout the season.
"That's going to be the thing for me this year every week, (it's) going to get better. Everyone that's ever tore their ACL – you don't realize how many people actually tore their knee until you tear your knee, whether it's teammates, old teammates, the APs (running back Adrian Peterson), the (wide receiver) Julian Edelmans of the world. Getting in contact with them and they tell me every week it's going to continue to get better, continue to get better. Just got to continue to trust it and continue to work."
*The Giants have yet to fill the roster spot created when offensive lineman Nick Gates was placed on injured reserve. Judge was asked if wide receiver C.J. Board, who was elevated from the practice squad each of the first two weeks, is a roster candidate.
"We're going to talk about that internally and see what the best move for the team is," Judge said. "A couple of different options internally and then see also who's available on the outside in terms of maybe addressing some different positions. But C.J.'s done a good job for us and we'll see where that goes going forward."
*With Gates and Shane Lemieux both on injured reserve, Billy Price and Ben Bredeson are expected to continue starting at center and left guard, respectively.
"You'll definitely see an element of that and there's going to be probably some flexibility and moving around as far as getting some different guys in there and just making sure we work some different rotations as well," Judge said. "We'll see how it goes between today, tomorrow's walk through and going into the game on Sunday. You'll definitely see an element of that."
*Second-year linebacker Cam Brown will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
In addition to Engram, wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) and safety Nate Ebner (quad) are listed as questionable.
Those three players were limited at practice, as were Barkley (knee), safety Logan Ryan (hamstring), tight end Kaden Smith (knee) and rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle).
*Fans are encouraged to remain in their seats at halftime of Sunday's game to watch Eli Manning's Ring of Honor induction and jersey retirement ceremony. Fans at home can watch the ceremony live on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and GiantsTV streaming app.
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.