New York Giants Begin Life After Saquon Barkley Injury
When a team loses one of its most high profiled players, one of two things can potentially happen.
The first is that team can end up crawling into a shell and packing it in, such as what happened six games into the 2014 season.
That’s when the Giants, then 3-2 as they entered their Week 6 game on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles that year only to suffer the double whammy of being shut out on national television and having to watch receiver Victor Cruz, then one of the faces of the franchise, collapse in a pile of tears while clutching his injured knee as the air exited the Giants bubble.
The Giants never really recovered from that loss—both the shutout but, more importantly, the loss of Cruz. They would lose their next seven contests in a row, the first three losses of that string being of the blowout variety.
And while the Giants did manage to string together three wins in a row between Weeks 14-16 of that season, by then, the damage had been done as the team finished with a 6-10 record.
Then there is the other side of the spectrum, one in which the team who loses a valued teammate rally around each other and keeps on fighting.
That second option is what head coach Joe Judge is hoping to see from his team, which will ride the rest of the season without star running back Saquon Barkley.
While it’s natural for the eyes of Giants nation to turn to quarterback Daniel Jones, the second-year signal-caller who already has shown some promising signs of leadership in the uncertain times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones won’t be asked to carry the team all by his lonesome.
“I had the conversation with every one of our players that it’s not all on any single player. Everybody has a role, everybody has a job to do. We all have to do our job a little bit better and eliminate mistakes that put us behind early in the game,” Judge said.
That includes Jones, whom Judge has praised for his attitude and work ethic even before the injury bug took such a significant bite out of the Giants offensive personnel.
“I know he’s putting himself in position to do everything he can to help the team,” Judge said. “He just has to be himself and do what he has to do. Everyone else has to play their best as well.”
Jones, who has been the very picture of Mr. Cool, said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to fill the void left by Barley’s injury, nor should he. As quarterback, Jones’ role on the offense is much different than that of Barkley’s, and in the locker room, both are part of the young leadership council head coach Joe Judge formed among the players.
Jones’ focus is on ensuring the game plan put in place by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is executed to its fullest potential, regardless of who’s carrying the ball or who the receiving target is.
“We talked a little bit about generating explosive plays as an offense and everyone doing their job. I think that’s the way we’re going to do it,” Jones said.
“We have a lot of guys who can make plays. It’s about everyone doing what they have to do to execute as an offense. That’s the way we are going to be most effective. It’s not any one guy, it’s not a couple guys. It’s all of us executing to put the ball into position to score points to make those explosive plays and keep drives going. It’s not one guy or two guys, it’s the group stepping up and I’m confident we’ll be able to do that.”
As for the off-field stuff, Jones said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to increase the volume of his already loud leadership voice in the locker room now that the team will be without Barkley for a little while.
“I think I’ll certainly continue to try to lead and try to help us move in the right direction,” he said. “I think it’s everyone stepping up like it is on the field with our execution.
“The football aspect of it, in terms of the team camaraderie, I think it’s a similar approach. I think we have a lot of leaders on this team. There’s only a few people who are necessarily captains, but a lot of guys are leaders and a lot of guys are comfortable in that role. We’ll continue to rely on guys and guys will continue to step up and do that.”