Saquon Barkley injury concern escalates amid Giants anger
Concern for Saquon Barkley after he rushed for 1 yard increased exponentially when he took about 20 steps.
Barkley made the short trip from the Giants locker room to the X-ray room Sunday at MetLife Stadium after the worst performance of his NFL career in a 34-27 loss to the Jets.
“Next question,” Barkley said when asked about his health.
For a no-excuses player, it’s as close to an admission as possible of what is clear with the naked eye: He’s far from 100 percent. X-ray results were not immediately known.
Barkley rushed his return from a three-game absence from a high ankle sprain and has lacked the same first-step explosion in his first four games back. He carried 13 times for 1 yard (not a typo) and had five catches for 30 yards, which left him 25 yards short of his previous career-low total from scrimmage when playing the entire game.
“It’s very unusual of anyone of any caliber in any game,” coach Pat Shurmur said of Barkley’s rushing total.
Shurmur admitted Barkley got “banged around pretty good” — he tumbled into a sideline official holding the downs marker early in the game — but the Giants still gave him all but one of their 14 handoffs.
Though he still can turn on the accelerators — as he did on a 65-yard screen pass against the Cowboys and on a 22-yard reception against the Jets — Barkley’s injury is most obvious in his pass-blocking.
Never the strongest part of his skill set, he now has to be removed in obvious passing downs in favor of Wayne Gallman because he looks slow to reach his assignment and thus loses leverage.
Two games after he allowed a sack, a quarterback hit and a hurry against the Lions, Barkley nearly handed 14 points to the Jets (2-7). Barkley picked up one of quarterback’s Daniel Jones fumbles after he was beaten by a pass-rusher — the rookie quarterback continues to hold the ball too long under pressure — but wasn’t so fortunate in the third quarter.
Blitzing safety Jamal Adams shoved Barkley back on his heels and out of the way as he ripped the ball away from Jones and returned it for a touchdown.
Barkley wore his emotions on his face after the Giants’ sixth straight loss to fall to 2-8.
“Frustration, disappointment, anger,” Barkley said. “No one wants to be 2-8, no one wants to have a losing record. Everyone is upset. Everyone is frustrated.”
Barkley was running behind an offensive line missing two starters (center Jon Halapio and right tackle Mike Remmers) for the entire game and a third (left tackle Nate Solder) for most of the game.
Told of Barkley’s final rushing line, astonished right guard Kevin Zeitler reacted as if he had been smacked in the face.
“They obviously did their job, but as an offense, screw that,” Zeitler said. “No matter how good a team is we have to find a way to grind it out and get it done.
“We always take [the responsibility.] No matter how talented a back is, the better the O-line plays the better he does. No matter what we did, we couldn’t get it done. It’s on us.”
Running backs already have short shelf lives compared to other positions and racking up carries and risking long-term damage in another lost season seems foolish. If Barkley isn’t going to shut himself down, it might be incumbent on Shurmur to do so — or to better manage his workload.
Except Shurmur needs to win games to get off the hot seat.
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