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NFL Draft

Does Saquon Barkley Have To Play Week 1?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 2, 2021
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Everyone in the NFL world is anxiously awaiting the return of New York Giants superstar running back Saquon Barkley. This statement applies for most fans (especially the fantasy football players who drafted him), but it especially holds true for Giants head coach Joe Judge, starting quarterback Daniel Jones, and so on. Barkley hasn’t played in a game since tearing his ACL during Week 2 of the 2020 season. With months and months of agonizing rehab now in his rearview mirror, Barkley’s return appears closer than ever. According to multiple reports, Barkley has a strong chance to play in the Giants’ Week 1 contest against the Denver Broncos.

But does Barkley *have* to be ready for Week 1? The answer is no, he really doesn’t. Giants fans may be disappointed to read that, but hear me out because I promise you, I have your best interest at heart.

It’s a long season that will get even longer with the addition of a 17th game in 2021. The Giants have taken the cautious approach with Barkley this summer. He didn’t log a single snap in the preseason, and that was the right thing to do as they continue to ease him back into action. If New York has *any* reason to believe that Barkley would benefit from having an extra week or two to get ready for his return to the lineup, then that’s the decision that needs to be made. 

This seems to be going in the other direction, though. The Giants appear to be doing everything in their power to have Barkley on the field for Week 1. On Thursday, he took his first hits during training camp. It’s a fairly telltale sign that he’ll be playing sooner rather than later.

We know how important Barkley is to the Giants’ offense. Through his first two seasons in the league, he touched the ball an astounding 621 times while playing in 29 of a possible 32 games. Getting more specific, Barkley averaged 22 touches per game as a rookie and nearly 21 touches per game as a sophomore. Barkley isn’t just a piece of the Giants’ offense, he *IS* the Giants’ offense. It’s fair to wonder if Barkley’s 2018 and 2019 workloads contributed to the season-ending injury he suffered so early into the season in 2020, but that’s a question that’s impossible to answer with absolute certainty. 

If the Giants are going to experience any success as a team in 2021, it’s imperative that they keep Barkley healthy and available to inevitably receive yet another boatload of touches. If keeping him out of Week 1 gives them a better chance at doing that over the course of the season, then this is a no-brainer.

As the Giants get ready to make their decision on Barkley’s status for Week 1 in the coming days, we hope they remember the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.

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