Giants' Saquon Barkley trending in right direction, but how much could he play in Week 1?

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Saquon Barkley running no pads hat on
Saquon Barkley running no pads hat on

Saquon Barkley has long been on track to be ready to play in the Giants’ season opener. And as long as there’s no setback at practice this week, he almost certainly will.

The only remaining question for the Giants, according to a source, is about how much he’ll play.

Barkley has cleared every hurdle, including his first contact in practice last week, and come through healthy, according to a source. So the Giants are proceeding as they have been for weeks: As if he’ll be on the field when they open the season at the Meadowlands against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

What’s unclear, and perhaps undecided, is just how much Barkley will be used in what will be his first game since he tore his ACL nearly one year ago. Making that decision even more complicated – and important – is that the Giants will play again just four days later when they play in Washington on Thursday night in Week 2.

Barkley certainly has looked healthy and very much like his old self during the few weeks he’s been back at full practice. But asking him to carry a full load at such a high-contact position twice in four days is likely a little too much to ask – both for his body in general and specifically for his surgically repaired knee.

What that means isn’t clear, especially since Barkley had only one game in Jason Garrett’s offense – and that one didn’t go particularly well. He had 15 carries (for just six yards) in the season opener last season and was targeted nine times as a receiver (catching six passes for 60 yards). Presumably the Giants would’ve run him a little more had he been more productive. A good guess is they’d want the ball in a healthy Barkley’s hands 25-30 times at least.

But now, the Giants seem more likely to work in backup Devontae Booker and rookie Gary Brightwell, who could end up as the third-down back. Barkley could be limited to part-time duty, especially if the Giants decide they want to roll him back out again in Week 2.

As for the Giants’ other injured offensive weapons, how they come through practice this week will tell their story. They are optimistic that most of them – receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring), receiver Kadarius Toney (undisclosed) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) will be available. Tight end Evan Engram (calf) appears to be a longshot since he wasn’t able to practice last week.