- In any other season, Barkley's injury would have completely derailed the Giants’ season. Can Jones keep New York from completely falling off the rails while the RB is out?
On any other Monday, amid any other season, this news would have eviscerated the franchise.
And yes, it’s still a gut-punch for the Giants that running back Saquon Barkley will reportedly miss at least a month—and likely more than that—with a high ankle sprain. It is not, however, the toll of irrelevance ringing again, signaling an endless fall without the team’s most dynamic player.
Daniel Jones’s emergence does not mitigate the loss of the best running back in the league. Not even close. What his strong performance against Tampa Bay on Sunday does do is keep the franchise on an upward trajectory. There is still meaning in the space between Monday and the time Barkley can come back and drive this offense again. There is excitement in the incremental improvements that may take place over the course of these two months; a freshness that the Giants have not felt as they tried dutifully to squeeze the remaining football out of Eli Manning’s arm.
This is what happens when you finally rip the band-aid off and trust that there is life outside of the comfort zone. Over the past six years, the Giants were comprised of a middling cast of characters and one exceptional skill position player who generated all the firepower. When that skill position player got hurt, the entire operation shuttered like a ski lodge in June. There is no more deafening sound in the National Football League than irrelevance, or an apathetic fan base that doesn’t have anything to show up for.
In Jones, the Giants have a platform on which to display the future. Here is a quarterback who can execute a different kind of offense, or at least stretch the current offense to its outer limits. Here is a quarterback who may be capable of making some of the plays that are simply out of a 38-year-old’s wheelhouse anymore. Here is what that young quarterback might look like without the glaring threat of a home run back. And, here is how some of our other young players will work with that quarterback.
This is not a shot against Manning, but because of the brittle roster created around him amid several desperate job-saving attempts over the past few seasons, the end of the Giants’ schedule often looked like a garage sale after hours. All of the excitement had been picked over, and even the hope of seeing something special was largely gone. Manning was flailing, doing his best to shove a football downfield, but it wasn’t quite the draw it used to be anymore. He wasn’t getting any younger.
There is nothing else to say about the loss of Barkley other than it’s bad. The team was built for him. The rhythm of the offense hums when he’s running the ball. A loss like this can severely impact a team’s playoff chances. But for once, it is not the type of injury that forces fans to abandon hope altogether. They don’t know whether or not Jones is the type of player who can strap a team to his back and lead them through some murkiness—and that’s an exciting thing.
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