Saquon Barkley racked up a career-high 229 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown during his first experience in the Giants-Eagles rivalry last season. In the second, he added 142 total yards and two more scores.
“Well, the first game I just was in a groove,” Barkley recalled in the locker room after Thursday’s practice. “Not really much more to say about that.”
While we wait to see what he delivers in the third chapter on Monday night, all the twists and turns since his last trip to Philadelphia have led to a probable on-field reunion with Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback in all likelihood will be one handing the ball off to Barkley when the Giants face the Eagles in primetime. Daniel Jones, the rookie sixth overall pick who succeeded Manning in Week 3, suffered a moderate high ankle sprain last week against Green Bay and consequently did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
Barkley dealt with a similar injury for the better part of two months. After getting injured in Week 3, Barkley missed the next three full games and has yet to record a 100-yard game on the ground since. Last week was promising, though. He ran for 83 yards on 4.4 yards per rush, both the highest post-injury.
“I guess in my standards it’s not really a good game,” Barkley said. “But that I broke over 100 yards [from scrimmage], was averaging over like four yards a carry, something like that, so I feel like I’m getting back to myself, but I’m not really focusing on individual stats. I don’t care if I go for 250 yards, I don’t care if I go for 50 yards, I just want to go out there and help my team win football games. Coming down to the home stretch of the season, got four games left, try to finish it strong as a team and it starts with Monday Night Football in front of everyone, so try to go out there and execute better as a team and put ourselves in position to win.”
The Giants will look to break their eight-game losing streak against the Eagles, whom they have not defeated since 2016 and have not beaten on the road since 2013.
“Honestly, it’s a rivalry, but playing in Philly last year, they’ve got some different fans, so it would be pretty dope to go out there and get a win,” Barkley said. “But not the fact because it’s a rivalry, just because, like I said, it’s the next game and it’s on Monday night and like I was saying … a win could help spark something. The only thing we’ve got left is this last month of the season, so why not go out there and put it on the line?”
Barkley and the Giants will enter that home stretch with Manning, whose last victory as a starter came a year ago this Monday. And in that 40-16 win at Washington, Barkley ran for a career-high 170 yards.
“Eli, he’s a legend,” Barkley said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. He just sees the field so well. He understands the game so well, he’s been doing it for a very long time and it’s what you expect from Eli. Obviously, I love the way he handled the situation when D.J. ended up being the starting quarterback, the way he operated in practice, the way he operated in the building was the same Eli that we know. So, good to see him come out this week and get a chance. It’s going to be awesome for him.”
The future of Barkley and the Giants lies with Jones, but the running back knows the value of Manning’s experience.
“I don’t think it just helps me, I think it just helps the team, helps the offense,” Barkley said. “They’re both great quarterbacks and I’m not here to compare and contrast Eli versus D.J., they’re two different style quarterbacks, one has been doing it for a very long time, one is in his first year. But Eli, like I said, like you said, he’s seen every defense, so it’s like second hand to him. He’s going to be able to help put us in positions to succeed, and I think D.J. has been doing a great job of that, too. So, like I said, I’m just happy for Eli to get an opportunity.”