Saquon Barkley Return Raises Hopes for Giants Offense

Saquon Barkley is officially back for the Giants (2-4), just four weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain. The team announced on Friday that he had been cleared to play in Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (2-3).

In his first two games of the season, Barkley ran for 227 yards and one touchdown. Without him, the Giants were 1-2 with a significant dip in rushing yards — from an average of 140 yards a game with Barkley on the field to 88 yards without.

”He’s a huge part of this offense; we’re excited about it,” wide receiver Golden Tate said to reporters on Wednesday. “We have to do our jobs the best we can to spring each other.”

Barkley was injured while playing Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, when he was hit low by Buccaneers defender M.J. Stewart, who then fell on Barkley’s right ankle. He needed help leaving the field and was immediately brought to the locker room, but returned to the sideline on crutches to help the Giants celebrate Daniel Jones’s first win as the starting quarterback.

Barkley’s recovery was initially expected to take six to eight weeks, so his return is well ahead of schedule. He was first seen on the sideline jogging, making cuts and dancing just 10 days after the injury. Barkley was limited in practice last week but participated in full on Wednesday for the first time.

“I know people call me a ‘super healer’ or whatever, but it’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of the people surrounding me for me to be able to heal as fast as I did,” Barkley said on Thursday.

His work with trainers had been so successful that he had hinted at returning for the Giants' Week 6 matchup against the Patriots. In the end, he was ruled out for that game, which the Giants lost, 35-14.

Barkley said he wanted to come back “10 times better,” than he was before the injury. Barkley had 1,307 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season last year. He had a high ankle sprain on the same ankle in college and returned just a week later.

“He’s a young player still, so every time he comes out here, he has an opportunity to get better,” Coach Pat Shurmur said. “When you hear a player talking about trying to get better, and better by a large margin, I think that’s great.”

Barkley is the most important of several vital offensive weapons expected to return on Sunday to help the Giants return to the winning trajectory charted in Jones’s first win. Tight end Evan Engram will also be back on Sunday after missing the last game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Engram had 373 receiving yards in the first five games of the season and was injured on Oct. 6 against the Minnesota Vikings.

“I just want to be out there for my team every week that I can,” Engram said. “So it’s definitely going to be important this week to just continue to work, continue to be smart, and getting ready.”

Engram’s return opens up another potential target for the rookie quarterback Jones, who will again play without the receiver Sterling Shepard, recovering from his second concussion this season.

Barkley’s backup, Wayne Gallman, is also expected to be available. Gallman started two games in Barkley’s absence, but sustained a concussion on Oct. 6 against the Minnesota Vikings. Jon Hilliman got the nod against the Patriots and ran for just 38 yards. Hilliman was cut after that game, and the Giants signed the veteran Javorius Allen.

Danielle Allentuck is a reporting fellow on the sports desk. She is a graduate of Ithaca College and previously worked at USA Today, NBC Sports and the Buffalo News.  @D_Allentuck

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