It goes without saying that Saquon Barkley is about as irreplaceable as it comes for the Giants offense. And for a team that will also be without Sterling Shepard for at least the next three weeks, that task becomes even harder.
But offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has to get back to the drawing board. And with the recent signing of Devonta Freeman, there’s a bit more talent for him to work with.
“You just go back to work with the guys that you have,” Garrett said. We have a lot of confidence in the guys that we have here in Dion [Lewis] and Wayne [Gallman]. Those guys will certainly get their opportunities. And for us to be able to sign a guy like Devonta Freeman is a real bonus for us. He came in and had a good workout, a good practice yesterday. We want to see how he handles the work as the week goes on. He's obviously been a really good football player in this league for a while. He's a smart guy. He's a football guy. He's instinctive. We'll try to get him up to speed as quickly as we can and just get back to work.”
Freeman had back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Falcons in 2015 and 2016, rushing more than 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns in each of those years. After an injury limited him to two games in 2018, he returned last year to rush for 656 yards in 14 games. He was also a factor as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, making 59 receptions for 410 yards.
But Barkley is on another level. And no one knows that more than Garrett, who was on the other side of the field trying to figure out how to stop the Penn State product when he served as head coach of the Cowboys.
“When I was in Dallas we had to defend him a lot,” Garrett said. “The focal point of our defense was No. 26. So when you have different guys in those roles, maybe the focal point is not quite as narrow on that particular player, so maybe that works to your advantage a little bit. But make no mistake about it, Saquon is a great player and he'll be missed. But we have a tremendous amount of confidence in the players we're putting out there.”
With the absence of such an important player, Garrett knows the playbook needs to be reworked a little bit. But he’s confident in the game plan the team has in place.
You have an offensive system that's flexible enough to adapt depending on the situation that you have,” Garrett said. “If there's a player that you want to feature either in the running game or the passing game, you have to be able to do that seamlessly within your system. Obviously Saquon is a great, great, football player and a really impactful player both in the running game and the passing game throughout his career. He certainly was going to be a big part of what we wanted to do this year, but now we have to adjust.”