EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – With his biggest play of the young season, Saquon Barkley provided a glimpse of what he can do in the future and a look back at his celebrated past.
In the third quarter Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, Barkley took a handoff from Daniel Jones, stepped to his right, zipped through a hole created by the blocks of all five offensive linemen, sidestepped two attempted tackles, cut back to the left side of the field and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown that gave the Giants a 13-6 lead.
Though they eventually lost, the exciting, well-executed run provided further evidence that Barkley is healthy and still one of the NFL's very best running backs.
"Not to be arrogant," Barkley said today, "when you see plays like when I went back and you watch film on the touchdown run I had on Monday – making that jump cut inside a hole and making those two guys miss and find a way to score, those are the plays where it kind of puts a smile on your face and you're like, 'That's the guy I know. That's the guy who always was there.'"
It was vintage Barkley, circa 2018, when he rushed for 1,307 yards and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The following season, he missed three games with a sprained ankle. In 2020 a torn ACL cost him the final 14½ games, and in 2021 another ankle sprained forced him out of three more games.
But in catalyzing the Giants' 2-1 start, Barkley has been one of the NFL's best players.
"He was there last year, to be completely honest," Barkley said. "I just had a hard time finding a way to bring him out. That's coming with a mental disconnect, I lost confidence, and it's human nature – that happens. You're going to have your ups and downs in life, but you got to find a way not to waver and continue to trust yourself, continue to trust the process, and just find belief in yourself again. I feel like I'm starting to do that, also with the help of the coaches and my teammates."
Barkley leads the NFL with 408 yards from scrimmage, 39 more than No. 2 Nick Chubb of Cleveland. His 317 rushing yards are second to Chubb's 341. Barkley has scored two of the Giants' five touchdowns this season. His 13 receptions tie him with Sterling Shepard for second on the team, one behind Richie James.
Those numbers suggest Barkley might be a more superior player now than he was before his injuries.
"I don't know if I'm really better," Barkley said. "I would say I'm probably a smarter player. I have a better understanding of the game than I had my rookie year. My rookie year is when you come in the best shape of your life – you're 21, you're young, I hadn't had any injuries in the past or anything like that. I probably was in better physical shape than I am but just understanding the game, slowing down the game. I don't see myself doing anything different, just have a better understating, listen to (running backs) coach (DeAndre) Smith, (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson), all the coaches, and trusting the offensive line. That's how the plays have been working and I got to continue to do that."
The Giants expect nothing less.
View photos from practice as the New York Giants gear up for their Week 4 matchup against the Chicago Bears.
*Shepard tore his ACL late in the game Monday and was placed on injured reserve yesterday. Because Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) have not practiced this week, the Giants have just four healthy receivers on their roster – James, Kenny Golladay, David Sills and Darius Slayton.
"That's why we had all that training camp," coach Brian Daboll said. "Those guys have been out here. Shep just came back from that injury (a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December). So, those guys have practiced. And we have guys that we have on our practice squad that are learning, that are picking things up. So, I think we have some options there."
But none of the team's other receivers can match Shepard's connection with Jones. He has caught 140 passes from Jones, 32 more than departed tight end Evan Engram and 105 more than Slayton, the runner-up on the current roster. Shepard's 1,409 yards on receptions from Jones are second to Slayton's 1,485.
Slayton does not have a catch this season.
*Cornerback Justin Layne participated fully in practice after he was limited yesterday. Another corner, Aaron Robinson, was limited because of his recent appendectomy. Linebacker Jihad Ward was limited with a knee issue.
In addition to Toney and Wan'Dale Robinson, players not practicing were defensive lineman Leonard Williams (knee) and defensive backs Cor'Dale Flott (calf) and Nick McCloud (hamstring).
*The Giants currently have 52 players on their roster, one under the limit.
"We talked about it yesterday, (general manager) Joe (Schoen) and I," coach Brian Daboll said. "We'll kind of go through the week and see where we're at here on the practice field. Probably a few decisions that we could make. That'll be after practice Friday."
*Statistical leftovers from the Giants' loss to Dallas Monday night:
Jones' 196 passing yards increased his career total to 8,958. That moved him past fellow Duke alum Dave Brown (8,806) and into seventh place on the franchise's career list. Pro Football Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle is sixth with 10,439.
*Barkley scored his 21st rushing touchdown on a 36-yard run in the third quarter. That broke a tie with Doug Kotar and Eddie Price and left him alone at 11th in Giants history, five behind Bill Paschal.
*Barkley increased his career total yardage to 4,827 (3,254 rushing, 1,573 receiving). He passed Hakeem Nicks (4,714), Emlen Tunnell (4,766) and Ike Hilliard (4,774) and moved into 17th place on the Giants' career list. Chris Calloway is 16th with 4,904.
*The Giants' defense had neither a sack nor a takeaway against Dallas, the first time that happened since Dec. 1, 2019, against Green Bay. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the 34th game since the 1970 merger the Giants had no sacks or takeaways. They are 2-32 in those games.
*Because Leonard Williams missed the first game of his career with a knee injury, linebacker Tae Crowder has the Giants' longest streak of consecutive starts at 22. Safety Xavier McKinney is second with 18; Barkley and tackle Andrew Thomas are tied for third with 11.