EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants don't play again until two weeks from tonight at Tampa Bay, and when they do two of their offensive stalwarts could perhaps join them.
Running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas, former first-round draft choices who have each played in just five games for the 3-6 Giants, have a chance to face the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
"I'd say for both guys based on the conversations that I've had today with trainers, I'm hopeful that we would be able to have both guys back for Tampa," coach Joe Judge said today. "I think we've got to give them an opportunity this week."
The Giants are scheduled to practice tomorrow and Wednesday before taking a four-day break for their bye.
Barkley has missed four consecutive games after spraining his left ankle in Dallas on Oct. 10. He has not practiced since and last week he spent time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list – and away from the team - after a positive COVID test that later proved to be false.
"Saquon's obviously been out of the building for the better part of a week and that's unfortunate because it was something he was pushing toward, really getting back on the field for us," Judge said. "We'll look to get him out there and just make sure we check his conditioning and football movements and all that stuff in the week going forward with it and make sure he's good to get back on the field."
Thomas has dealt with injuries to his right ankle and left foot this season. He was in uniform against Dallas but did not play. The following week, he hurt his foot against the Rams and was placed on injured reserve two days later. He is eligible to return against Tampa Bay.
"In terms of Andrew, he obviously got rolled up pretty good against the Rams, so he was placed on I.R," Judge said. "This would be an opportunity for him to come out of that I.R. situation and be available. We'll get him on the field tomorrow and have him do some things with the trainers in terms of seeing him move around that may open up a window to get him out there a little bit more on Wednesday and do some things in practice with us."
Barkley has been replaced in the starting lineup by Devontae Booker, who had a career-high 125 scrimmage yards last week in Kansas City and rushed for 99 yards in a 23-16 victory yesterday against the Las Vegas Raiders. He has played well enough to assure himself of playing time when Barkley returns.
"I have a lot of confidence in Devontae," Judge said. "He's done a lot of things that give us the confidence to go ahead and put him in there, and you're always better off having two guys that can carry the ball and stay fresh out there and keep wearing down a defense. Those two-headed monster teams are tough to face. Obviously, that wouldn't take us out of finding ways to get Saquon the ball, that's always going to be a main point of it just as it would for all our other playmakers, but along the way you want to have a lot of depth at those positions to keep playing and have them fresh."
In Thomas' absence, Nate Solder moved from right to left tackle in Dallas and Matt Peart has started the last three games on the left side.
The Giants would certainly benefit from the return of their 2018 and 2020 first-round draft choices.
"Both those guys will be here throughout the week continuing to rehab and progressing," Judge said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to have both of those guys available. I wouldn't be able to give you a definite answer right now on the exact timeline, but hopefully, it works out for those guys and for the team that we get them back sooner than later."
View photos from the New York Giants' Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.
*Oshane Ximines was a healthy scratch against the Raiders.
Judge said Ximines' offside penalty that negated a late interception was not the reason for him being inactive.
"We just made the move we thought was going to be best for us within the game plan that we had yesterday," Judge said. "It's as simple as that."
The Giants' outside linebackers were Trent Harris, who was elevated from the practice squad the day before the game, and rookies Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche and Elerson Smith.
Roche started and made one of the afternoon's biggest plays when he registered the Giants' only sack and forced a Derek Carr fumble that was recovered by Leonard Williams on the Raiders' final offensive play. He had four tackles (two solo). Ojulari had two tackles (one solo) and tipped a pass, and Harris assisted on one tackle. Smith played two special teams snaps in his NFL debut.
"I think the three guys are really developing," Judge said. "Those young guys are really coming around and developing, and Trent has done a good job for us. He's done a good job for us on defense, he's done a good job for us in the kicking game. There are multiple roles that come into every game plan and you can only take so many guys into the game, so you've got to consider offensive and defensive value along with the kicking game, as well. I think in the kicking game as well as on defense, those guys are all coming around and having value and really developing. X-Man has done some good things for us on the field, as well, but we thought this Sunday was the best move for us within the game plan and what we needed was to have the guys active that we had."
*Judge was asked if the Giants have "gotten through the COVID testing situation" that upended the team's schedule last week.
"I hope so," he said. "We tested again today in the trailer before re-entering. We didn't do the rapid tests really to finish out last week. We did more of the PCR's, which are the overnight, delayed responses. The league thought that was best for us going into the game. That worked out well for us in terms of getting accurate results. I haven't heard anything contrary in terms of any results from today, so hopefully, it's all resolved."
*Booker left the game in the fourth quarter with a hip injury but said afterward he could have returned. Judge did not have a definitive update on his condition today.
"He's seeing a doctor to get the final assessments," Judge said. "A lot of these older guys won't do a ton this week anyway. In terms of yesterday, he was actually cleared to come back into the game. I know Book was kind of on the sideline itching to get back in. At that point, (fullback Eli) Penny was running the ball well and we were in a position that we didn't have to put him back in. They'll let us know in terms of going forward what it's going to look like. I don't have a definite answer on that right now, but he was cleared to come back in the game yesterday, so that's a good sign."
*Harris, wide receiver/return specialist Pharoh Cooper and linebacker Benardrick McKinney reverted back to the practice squad today. All played in the game yesterday.
Running back Dexter Williams was released from the practice squad.