What's Next for the Giants After the Saquon Barkley Injury?
This wasn't supposed to happen.
Saquon Barkley, the Giants generational talent at running back who was coming off a rough week filled with criticism and doubt as to whether he had what it took to be an every-down back in the NFL after a poor showing in the 2020 regular-season opener, was supposed to bounce back.
That six-yard rushing performance on 15 carries against a tough Steelers defense? That was an anomaly, a fluke that was supposed to be fixed this week.
Heck, even Barkley, who never lost his cool and who remained respectful even in the face of adversity, couldn't wait to get on the field to redeem himself.
However, that redemption will have to wait possibly until next year after Barkley, on the first play of the second quarter, grabbed his right knee in pain and had to be helped off the field, the frustration and the pain hard to miss on his face.
So now what? Where do these Giants go from here after losing the one player around whom their offense seemed to depend so much on?
"We go back to work. That's where we go," said head coach Joe Judge.
Make no mistake about it; Judge wasn't flippant over having lost a team captain, a locker room leader, and a darn good player despite his rocky start to this season to a serious knee injury.
Judge was one of the people from the Giants sideline to help Barkley from across the field back to the Giants bench, a move that spoke volumes about the head coach's respect for his player.
But he's right. The league isn't going to give the Giants a period of mourning if the news, as is anticipated, is that Barkley is indeed finished for the season.
Coaches will tell you that when it comes to an injury, it's always "Next man up."
To a degree, that's true, but to expect people to believe that the next man up can do everything on par with the man he's replacing is just a bunch of nonsense.
So for the Giants, they will turn to 29-year-old Dion Lewis, who was supposed to spell Barkley here and there throughout this long season, but who now will carry his fallen teammate's load.
Lewis managed just 20 yards on ten carries and added four receptions for 36 yards. Obviously, his upcoming increased workload didn't unfold how he would have preferred it to, but he's still ready to step in and keep things moving forward.
"I prepare every week, all week like I’m going to be in there every play because you never know what’s going to happen," Lewis said.
'"So, I always stay prepared and, unfortunately, I had to go out there a little more than I normally would have to, but I was ready."
As for Barkley, who remained at Soldier Field while his team was trying to mount a fourth-quarter comeback that just came up short, he will more than likely need surgery and a recovery period in which he'll have to stay off his feet as much as possible.
But you know that as soon as he's able to get around, he'll be there with his teammates even if it means watching games from a suite.
And what about those teammates he leaves behind in the interim?
"We'll go back to work on Wednesday. We start plugging ahead," Judge vowed. "Our vision has to be forward. Whatever happened today win or lose, it's over. Today's game is over. What's important is our players learn from what happened."