After a grueling handful of football-less months and exhibition bouts, game week is finally upon us. The New York Giants will welcome the Teddy Bridgewater-led Denver Broncos into MetLife Stadium for Sunday’s opener. When they do, there looks to be a strong chance they’ll have their No. 1 offensive weapon at their disposal.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football where he reported that running back Saquon Barkley (knee) is “gearing up to play Week 1 against the Denver Broncos and is as close as he has ever been to being fully cleared. Source emphasized ‘he is very close.'” Rapoport also added that the Giants “want to make sure that they treat him properly this week. They’re going to check him really through Thursday just to see how his body responds to the workload. But barring any setbacks, it certainly seems like we’re going to see Saquon Barkley on the field, Week 1, in some form or fashion.”
Barkley, the former NFL Rookie of the Year, hasn’t suited up for a game since Week 2 of last season when he suffered a torn ACL in a 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. While Barkley is trending towards a return, his volume remains a mystery. The sense that The Athletic’s Dan Duggan gets is that Barkley “will be in the lineup for the opener but won’t have a full workload.” Whether the Penn State product is active or not, look for veteran backup Devontae Booker to shoulder a healthy workload against the team that drafted him in the fourth round five years ago.
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Evan Engram a ‘Longshot’ to Play vs. Denver
While one Giants Pro Bowler takes steps towards returning to the gridiron, another’s chances of taking the field look to be slim leading up to kickoff. Tight end Evan Engram was once again bitten by the injury bug in the team’s preseason finale against the New England Patriots, suffering a calf injury — one that is likely to keep him sidelined for the opener.
“He actually had a really good week and weekend. However, I am told that the chance of him playing is slim, described to me as ‘a longshot,'” Rapoport noted. “Not completely ruled out, they want to give him the entire week, see if his calf improves a little more rapidly than it has been. So probably a longshot, but certainly not something that I’d say is definitely off the table.”
Giants Tight End Outlook
To make matters worse, Engram’s backup, Kyle Rudolph, is also nursing an injury, as he continues on his quest of returning from offseason foot surgery. If one, or neither player can go on Sunday, look for third-year pro Kaden Smith to handle a hefty amount of the snaps. Smith was fazed out of the offensive game plan a season ago, but did haul in three touchdowns over the final six weeks of 2019.
Similar to Barkley, Engram has struggled to remain on the field over his career, missing 14 games during his first three NFL seasons. With that said, the 27-year-old looked to turn over a new leaf in 2020, appearing in all 16 games for the first time in his Giants tenure.
Thanks to the added field time, Engram notched his first-ever Pro Bowl berth, accumulating 63 receptions for 654 receiving yards — both of which ranked third among NFC tight ends. Of course, not all was well, as the Ole Miss product continued to struggle with drops, recording the fourth-most in the NFL (eight drops officially).