Saquon Barkley racked up a career-high 229 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown during his first experience in the Giants-Eagles rivalry last season. In the second, he added 142 total yards and two more scores.
"Well, the first game I just was in a groove," Barkley recalled in the locker room after Thursday's practice. "Not really much more to say about that."
While we wait to see what he delivers in the third chapter on Monday night, all the twists and turns since his last trip to Philadelphia have led to a probable on-field reunion with Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback in all likelihood will be one handing the ball off to Barkley when the Giants face the Eagles in primetime. Daniel Jones, the rookie sixth overall pick who succeeded Manning in Week 3, suffered a moderate high ankle sprain last week against Green Bay and consequently did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
Barkley dealt with a similar injury for the better part of two months. After getting injured in Week 3, Barkley missed the next three full games and has yet to record a 100-yard game on the ground since. Last week was promising, though. He ran for 83 yards on 4.4 yards per rush, both the highest post-injury.
"I guess in my standards it's not really a good game," Barkley said. "But that I broke over 100 yards [from scrimmage], was averaging over like four yards a carry, something like that, so I feel like I'm getting back to myself, but I'm not really focusing on individual stats. I don't care if I go for 250 yards, I don't care if I go for 50 yards, I just want to go out there and help my team win football games. Coming down to the home stretch of the season, got four games left, try to finish it strong as a team and it starts with Monday Night Football in front of everyone, so try to go out there and execute better as a team and put ourselves in position to win."
The Giants will look to break their eight-game losing streak against the Eagles, whom they have not defeated since 2016 and have not beaten on the road since 2013.
"Honestly, it's a rivalry, but playing in Philly last year, they've got some different fans, so it would be pretty dope to go out there and get a win," Barkley said. "But not the fact because it's a rivalry, just because, like I said, it's the next game and it's on Monday night and like I was saying … a win could help spark something. The only thing we've got left is this last month of the season, so why not go out there and put it on the line?"
Barkley and the Giants will enter that home stretch with Manning, whose last victory as a starter came a year ago this Monday. And in that 40-16 win at Washington, Barkley ran for a career-high 170 yards.
"Eli, he's a legend," Barkley said. "He's a Hall of Famer. He just sees the field so well. He understands the game so well, he's been doing it for a very long time and it's what you expect from Eli. Obviously, I love the way he handled the situation when D.J. ended up being the starting quarterback, the way he operated in practice, the way he operated in the building was the same Eli that we know. So, good to see him come out this week and get a chance. It's going to be awesome for him."
The future of Barkley and the Giants lies with Jones, but the running back knows the value of Manning's experience.
"I don't think it just helps me, I think it just helps the team, helps the offense," Barkley said. "They're both great quarterbacks and I'm not here to compare and contrast Eli versus D.J., they're two different style quarterbacks, one has been doing it for a very long time, one is in his first year. But Eli, like I said, like you said, he's seen every defense, so it's like second hand to him. He's going to be able to help put us in positions to succeed, and I think D.J. has been doing a great job of that, too. So, like I said, I'm just happy for Eli to get an opportunity."
Tate full-go at practice; Engram, Ballentine, Solder limited
Wide receiver Golden Tate, who missed Week 13 with a concussion, practiced fully on Thursday. Cornerback Corey Ballentine (concussion), tight end Evan Engram (foot) and left tackle Nate Solder (ankle) were limited. In addition to Jones, tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion), safety Jabrill Peppers (back) and linebacker Chris Peace (knee) did not practice.
Eagles' Pederson thinks Manning's return will "jazz up" the Giants
On a conference call with Giants reporters, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he doesn't anticipate the Giants' offense changing, but Manning's return could add more motivation.
"Having Eli have a chance to kind of watch from the sideline," Pederson said, "to kind of observe and see how things have gone on the last few weeks, I think that's just going to help— not only help him, but it's going to help sort of jazz up the football team and kind of motivate the football team. One of the things, one of Eli's strengths obviously, is how he distributes the football to multiple people and that's something that he's been able to do throughout his career and be successful. I don't think it goes back to the old way at all. I think it's something that Eli has probably sat and watched and observed and he's going to use that to his advantage."
Jones, Wentz, and the Year 2 leap
Four years ago, the Eagles were in the Giants' spot regarding the most important position. They committed to Carson Wentz with a high draft choice and while his rookie 2016 campaign was impressive, Wentz became an MVP candidate in his second season.
"You always hope to see that," Shurmur said. "I would anticipate, if you want to compare that to Daniel, Daniel's going to make great improvements from year one to year two, as well."
"Well, I think the biggest thing is just having the offseason," Pederson said. "You're kind of on that whirlwind tour going into your rookie season. With the combine, the draft, trying to get through OTAs and then, boom, you're in training camp. It's sort of this media tour, whirlwind tour, it's hard to settle in that first year. You are doing a lot of things. I think the biggest jump was because Carson had an offseason. He had a chance to work with his guys. That's where you really begin your chemistry and your timing and accuracy with your skill guys. That's something that Daniel is going to have the opportunity to do. It just benefits you going into year two."
Giants add 2018 FCS Rimington Award winner to practice squad
The Giants today signed center Tanner Volson (6-4, 306 pounds) to their practice squad. A North Dakota State product, Volson won the 2018 FCS Rimington Award as the nation's top center. He played 59 games and made 32 starts at center, including 30 straight over his final two seasons. Volson was a consensus first-team FCS All-American in 2018. He spent this past offseason with the Chargers before they released him on Aug. 31.
View the best photos from Giants practice.
Giants vs. Eagles Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.
Download the Giants' official app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices