Five storylines to follow heading into the Week 7 meeting between the New York Giants (2-4) and Arizona Cardinals (2-3-1) at MetLife Stadium:
1. Reinforcements coming. The Giants missed their top two rushers and top two pass-catchers last Thursday in New England due to injuries. They might get one of each back in time for Sunday. Saquon Barkley, who had 274 yards from scrimmage in his first two games before he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3, participated in Monday’s practice to begin preparations for Arizona.
“He has to handle practice well and be ready to play,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He practiced today, so we’ll see when he comes in tomorrow how he feels. Then the next day and so on and so forth.”
Meanwhile, tight end Evan Engram “did a lot” in practice. With the quick turnaround, he was unable to play last week because of a knee injury he suffered against Minnesota. The Giants will have had 10 days in between the Patriots and Cardinals games.
“I feel really good,” Engram said Monday. “Got out there, was running around. It was good to get out there moving around. I’ve got a long week to get ready, so coach is taking care of us, but we did get some good work in.”
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Wayne Gallman both remain in the concussion protocol.
2. Jones vs. Murray. When Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray take the field, it will be just the ninth game since the 1970 merger in which rookie quarterbacks selected among the first 10 choices in the draft will start against each other. Under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, Murray is averaging 277.3 yards passing per game with a 64.3 completion percentage. The No. 1 pick has thrown seven touchdowns, including three last week, to four interceptions in six starts. He is also averaging nearly 40 yards per game on the ground.
Quarterbacks have rushed for 31 touchdowns during the 2019 season, surpassing 2002 (28) for the most rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks through the first six weeks of a season since 1970. Nine quarterbacks have multiple rushing touchdowns, including Jones and Murray, who each have two.
“He keeps every play alive with his feet, certainly,” Shurmur said of Murray. “They’re doing a lot of good stuff on offense. You see the reason why he was a dynamic player in college. He can make great throws from the pocket, but when the field gets spread out, he can take off and run with it. Especially in situational football where it’s third and short, or some of the third downs, or you get down in the red zone, they take advantage of his legs and his ability to move around. Not to minimize the fact that he’s an outstanding pocket passer. I think that’s what makes him dangerous.”
View rare photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Cardinals, which dates back to 1926.
3. Airing it out. Jones and Murray have the ability to run, but they could be in line for big days with their arms. Opponents have a passer rating of 121.8 against the Cardinals, which is the second-highest in the NFL. The Giants have allowed 9.34 yards per pass attempt, also the second-highest in the league.
“We are young,” Shurmur said of the defense. “Sometimes when you say young in this league, or you say injured in this league, it’s people making excuses for you. What’s important about our young defense is that I think they’re improving each week. Our young players have made significant contributions. Some of your young players can be your best leaders. The message to them is to continue to improve. I think we know from experience also that sometimes your youngest players make the most improvement as they go through it for the fifth, the sixth, the seventh and the eighth time. I think that’s where we’re at.”
Markus Golden isn’t one of those young players, but the outside linebacker has already rebounded with his best statistical campaign since he played for the Cardinals. Golden has recorded at least a half-sack in five consecutive games, and his five sacks are his most since 2016, when he broke out with 12.5 before a serious knee injury sidelined him the following year. His defensive coordinator at the time was James Bettcher, who is in his second season in the same position with the Giants.
4. Giants add a running back; WR Fowler is back. The Giants bolstered their running back room by signing Javorius “Buck” Allen, who played in 54 games with six starts for the Ravens. His career totals include 340 carries for 1,249 yards and eight touchdowns, in addition to 129 receptions for 814 yards and six scores.
“We’re glad he’s here,” Shurmur said. “He was available, we worked him out and we’ll get him going as quickly as possible.”
The team also brought back wide receiver Bennie Fowler, who has played in 14 games for the Giants over the past two years.
5. Crowded NFC East race. After their 0-2 start, the Giants won their next two games only to drop the last two. The net is a 2-4 record, which is just one game back of the Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East. Those .500 clubs square off Sunday night in Dallas.
“That’s what they say,” Shurmur for his thoughts on being just one game out of the division lead. “Our focus is on Arizona. You control all of that by winning games, and that’s our focus.”
“We’re not really worried about that,” safety Jabrill Peppers said of the standings. “We’re worried about what we have to take care of week by week, day to day. Right now, that’s getting prepared for Arizona. We’re only worried about what’s going on in this building. We have a good team coming up that’s coming off a good win. They have a lot of weapons that we have to prepare for, a lot of spread offense, so that’s where our main concern is.”
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