Excited? Yes. Stunned? No.
All the Giants lined up on the sideline had never before seen Saquon Barkley in an NFL game, but they witnessed enough of him in practice to anticipate the rookie running back could and would do something special. He did, with a 39-yard run the first time he touched the ball. How loudly did that burst resonate? The video clip of the play, as of Friday afternoon, had been viewed more than 2 million times on NFL.com.
“It was awesome, but I don’t think anyone was surprised,” linebacker Mark Herzlich said. “You didn’t see anybody say, ‘Oh my gosh.’ He is the real deal. We know he’s the real deal. He’s just showing everybody else now.”
There is good reason for players on the Giants defense to feel especially pleased Barkley is on their side. The more Barkley runs it, the longer the offense stays on the field, and limiting snaps for your defense is always a recipe that works.
It went quite well in Barkley’s first preseason rushing attempt.
“That was impressive and that’s what you want to see,” linebacker Olivier Vernon said. “They brought him here to be that horse in the backfield and make plays. He’s been doing that in the collegiate level and now in the big-boy level.”
The Giants came out of the game listing three injuries. Safety Darian Thompson was forced out with a hamstring issue he suffered on special teams, linebacker Jordan Williams is in the concussion protocol, and defensive lineman Kristjan Soloki is having his knee checked out.
There was a positive on offense other than Barkley, who was one of three running backs (Robert Martin and Jalen Simmons were the other two) to average more than 5 yards a carry. Simmons scored the Giants’ lone touchdown on a 5-yard run.
“Jalen did a good job,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “There were some nice hard runs in there, and then we’ve seen Rob obviously, we’ve seen him in practice have some good runs, and he’s a hard physical runner and it showed up in the game.”
It was hard — impossible, really — to come away from this preseason opener and not be impressed with Baker Mayfield. The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft went 11-of-20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 125.4.
“He was good,” Herzlich said. “That’s something you notice, when the ones are off the field, sometimes the backups aren’t able to conduct an offense very well, but he did a great job. It’s good to see the young future of what this league’s going to look like.”
Herzlich missed the entire 2017 season on injured reserve with a neck issue. In his first game since the end of the 2016 season, Herzlich was in for 38 snaps on defense and 10 on special teams. … Only two players in uniform did not play: WR Odell Beckham Jr. and safety Mike Basile, who was signed a day earlier.
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