He had not played for nearly a year after tearing his ACL on September 20, 2020 and having surgery on October 30, 2020.
Barkley got off to a measured start in the Giants Week 1 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Barkley Against Denver On Sunday, September 12
His stats were not extraordinary.
He rushed 10 times for 26 yards and caught one pass.
Barkley was definitely shaking off rust.
However, part of the ACL recovery is mental.
And Week 1 was a mental victory.
He was able to cut, run, and withstand tackles to that knee.
Barkley Against Washington On Thursday, September 16
Barkley himself admitted that the four-day turnaround between games after being out for so long was not favorable for him.
He also admitted to being sore though it is a normal soreness.
The conditions were also rainy and wet in Washington for Thursday night’s game.
In the first quarter, Barkley finally broke one and looked like his old self as he rushed for 41 yards on the play.
Saquan Barkley 41 yard run pic.twitter.com/lPszixJEws
— Alex. (@dubs4o8) September 17, 2021
There were encouraging signs from Saquon Barkley last night, including his 41-yard run and playing 53-of-63 snaps. He’s clearly improving.
What remains concerning is the push up front by his O-line: 14 of Barkley’s 23 carries this season have gained 2 or fewer yards.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 17, 2021
After that play, we did not see much more out of Barkley.
He finished the game with 13 rushes for 57 yards and two catches for 12 yards.
Limited By A Snap Count
It is clear that the Giants are trying to bring Barkley back gradually by limiting his snap count.
Joe Judge says unless the medical team tells him otherwise the plan is for star RB Saquon Barkley to play Thursday vs. Washington. And to continue to ramp him up as the season progresses. #Giants
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 13, 2021
There are 15 more games in this season so pushing Barkley back too quickly could be disastrous in the long-term.
A limited snap count on a short week was also a wise idea though it was likely tempting to play him more after that one impressive long run.
Limited By The Offensive Line
A bigger problem for Barkley, and it is not a new one, is the Giants offensive line.
GM Dave Gettleman went on the record back in 2017, while Barkley was still a Penn State University player, saying that the Giants offensive line needed to be improved.
Here we are, four years later, and if the first two games are any indication, it is not much better.
The Giants did suffer a terrible injury in the game with Nick Gates being carted off the field.
#Giants OL Nick Gates has a lower leg fracture, the team announced. A brutal early injury at a key spot.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 17, 2021
But the Giants line has been a problem for years.
Barkley, prior to his injury, had to work hard for all of his yards.
Nothing came easily.
That could be the larger more long-term problem.
Barkley is young and is easing back to his former self, but the offensive line is not much better than when he left it.
The Giants offensive line ranked 31 out of 32 heading into week 4 per @PFF
Averaging 0.7 rush yards before contact…
Not a great start for Dave Gettleman’s HogMollies
— TheBlueZone (@TheBlueZonee) October 5, 2020
In His Own Words
Barkley is trusting the progress and trying to be as patient and hopeful as possible as his team falls to 0-2 on the season.
After the loss to the Washington, he said:
“I was able to go out there and play a full game. My body and my knee responded well. Kind of knocked that rust off and was able to find one type of run to get open a little bit. It was an explosive run, I guess. But got to continue to trust it, trust the knee, trust the system. Hopefully, I’m going to continue to get better.”
Barkley and the Giants have a longer time to rest and prepare for their Week 3 game against the Atlanta Falcons scheduled for Sunday, September 26.