The New York Giants report to training camp next week, and the status of star running back Saquon Barkley likely will be the biggest storyline at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Barkley himself isn't sure when he will be able to practice, much less if he will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season as the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler rehabs from a torn ACL. William Hill Sportsbook gives Barkley odds of +1200 to lead the league in rushing this year and Over/Under totals of 1,185.5 rushing yards and nine rushing scores.
Speaking at his youth football camp on Monday, Barkley said this when asked when he might be available to take the field: "I've been asked a lot. I guess that's what the theme of this summer is gonna be, when I'll be back. But no, I don't have an answer, to be honest. I'm not trying to lead it up to it, stuff like that or blow something up. I don't have an answer. It's a fun process, but it's a tough process at the same time. So I'm excited to continue to listen to my body, listen to the trainers, listen to the coaches, and just take it day by day."
Barkley has been rather elusive all offseason when asked similar questions. This seems like common sense, but personally if I bet season individual NFL totals, I tend to lean Under simply because of the possibility of injury – although, obviously there is now an additional regular-season game (trust me, oddsmakers have taken that into account).
Barkley was brilliant as a rookie in rushing for 1,307 yards – leading the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage – and 11 scores in playing all 16 games. He missed three games in 2019 and finished with 1,003 yards and six scores. Last year, he went down with the ACL in a Week 2 loss in Chicago and finished the year with only 34 yards on 19 carries and no TDs.
The New York offense cratered without him in 2020, ranking second-to-last in total yards and points per game (17.5). Wayne Gallman led the team with 682 yards on the ground and six scores. He's now with the 49ers.
That Barkley was hurt so early in the season was at least a small benefit toward getting back for Week 1 this year. Usually, guys can make it back fully healthy within a year, but there's little doubt that the Giants are going to ease Barkley in if healthy considering the financial commitment they have. There's no chance he will play in any of the three preseason games.
Back in April, the Giants picked up the fifth-year option on Barkley's rookie contract for the 2022 season. Barkley will count $10.025 million against the cap in 2021, and then he'll get a fully guaranteed $7.21 million in 2022. There's really no reason for the Giants to talk long-term extension with him until seeing how well Barkley recovers.
Behind Barkley on the depth chart are Devontae Booker, Corey Clement and Gary Brightwell. Right as free agency kicked off this past winter, the Giants pounced on the 29-year-old Booker, who signed for more than double what he earned on a minimum deal with the Raiders last year. Since starting six games for Denver in 2016, Booker has started one game. Clement, 26, spent his first four seasons with the Eagles and has never started a game. Brightwell was a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft out of Arizona.
The Giants open Sept. 12 at home vs. Denver and currently are 1-point underdogs. The SportsLine Projection Model forecasts Barkley for 84 yards and 0.54 TDs on 16.6 carries.
Surprisingly, no Giants running back has led the NFL in rushing in the Super Bowl era.
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