Saquon Barkley has never been mistaken for a relief pitcher, but there are some similarities this week, as far as how much is too much and whether the Giants can keep their workhorse running back as rested as possible for what comes next.
Barkley is coming off a career-high 35 rushing attempts as he ran for 152 yards last week in a 24-16 victory over the Texans. Barkley has 198 rushes this season, second in the NFL to the 230 of Derrick Henry, who has played one more game. At this pace, Barkley will carry the ball 374 times this season, which would dwarf the career-high 261 rushing attempts he had as a rookie in 2019.
There was a full week of recovery time for Barkley before the game Sunday against the Lions at MetLife Stadium. There will not be a full week for Barkley to heal up after this, as the Giants hit the road to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The quick turnaround certainly will not help Barkley. Perhaps head coach Brian Daboll will be able to cut back a bit on Barkley’s snaps in Week 11 to preserve him for Week 12.
Barkley said he came out of the heavy usage last week in good shape.
“You know, it’s weird to be completely honest,’’ Barkley said. “It all depends on the week. Obviously, you would think when you touch the ball that many times, you’re going to be sore. It all depends on the week, the team you play. Sometimes you can touch the ball 10 times and be just as sore if you touched the ball 35 times. Sometimes you can touch the ball 35 times and not be that sore. It’s just the grind of the season and that’s how it goes.’’
When the Lions get close, they usually get in. In 33 drives that have reached the red zone this season, they have scored 23 touchdowns. That percentage of 69.7 is fifth-best in the league, behind the Titans, Chiefs, Eagles and Bengals. Conversely, the Giants’ red zone defense is second-best in the league in preventing touchdowns at 38.2 percent. The Lions are 26th.
The Giants hope getting the Lions out of their home-field dome and into the elements at MetLife Stadium will be helpful.
“I truly believe that,’’ special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “Just playing in the Northeast, when you bring a team in from out of town that’s not used to being in this environment and you’re playing in the Northeast in November and December, I think it’s a distinct advantage for you.’’
The Giants made Dan Campbell a third-round pick in 1999. Three years later they moved on from him as their starting tight end. Three years after that, they replaced him with Jeremy Shockey. Campbell made a strong impression in his four seasons with the Giants. Campbell, now Detroit’s head coach, has not turned the Lions into a winner — his record is 6-19-1 — but he has at least set a tone with his uber-aggressive personality.
“They’re aggressive across the board in play calling, going for fourth down a lot, getting after the ball. They have a coach over there trying to make up their identity of the team,’’ safety Julian Love said. “I like the aggression, honestly. I think it’s something that if I was a coach, I would do the same thing for my team.’’
Even though he might be rusty, the Giants hope the return of Shane Lemieux will strengthen their offensive line. Lemieux was activated and will start at left guard, making his first appearance since the 2021 season opener. Knee and toe surgeries curtailed his development after he started nine games as a rookie in 2020. The loss of Ben Bredeson to a knee injury forced rookie Josh Ezeudu into the lineup at left guard and that has been a struggle. Lemieux is considered to be a stronger run blocker than pass blocker.
TE Lawrence Cager was again activated off the practice squad. Cager notched his first NFL touchdown catch last week and is expected to see significant time on offense.