Saquon Barkley Injury: Who replaces the star RB while he’s out with an ankle injury? Examining the Giants’ Options

By | September 19, 2023

The New York Giants’ offense took a hit during their incredible comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 when star running back Saquon Barkley left the contest early with a ankle injury.

An MRI Monday showed that Barkley suffered a “common” ankle sprain, by ESPN. In some ways, this is good news, but the Giants’ best offensive player will miss some time. ESPN reports that Barkley will miss three weeks, while NFL Media Reports he is more week after week.

Barkley racked up 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns last year for the Giants. He accounted for 27.7% of New York’s offense, which was the fifth-highest mark of any NFL player last year. On Sunday against Arizona, Barkley rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He also caught six passes for 29 yards and another touchdown as the Giants rallied from a 20-0 deficit to win 31-28.

Coach Brian Daboll will have to adjust the offensive game plan with Barkley out, but he will still want to use the backs. Below, we’ll break down the running backs who will still fill Barkley’s shoes in the coming weeks.

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Breida, 28, is the veteran of the group, and it’s interesting that the Giants face the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, as it’s Breida’s former team. The Georgia Southern product arrived in San Francisco after going undrafted in 2017, and recorded 2,463 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per rushing attempt in 43 games played for the 49ers. Breida’s best season came in 2018, when he rushed for 814 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games played. In all, Breida had five 100-yard rushing games during his time with San Francisco.

The veteran also had short stints with the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills before joining the Giants ahead of the 2022 season. Breida recorded 338 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown in 17 games played.

Breida may be the most popular waiver addition this week in Fantasy because he is expected to be the leader in Week 3. Simply put, Breida is probably the best option for the Giants right now, and probably the most complete option when it comes to carrying the stone, catch the ball and block the pass. Expect the Giants to turn their backs a bit, but Breida should be the star on Thursday night at the very least.

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Brightwell is listed as the No. 2 running back on the Giants’ official depth chart, but whether he is utilized as such remains to be seen. Of the three defensive backs we’ll discuss here, Brightwell is the biggest at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. He was a sixth-round pick out of New York in 2021 out of Arizona.

Brightwell is a special teams contributor and made a great tackle last Sunday in the fourth quarter. Offensively, he rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries and caught eight passes for 51 yards in three seasons. Brightwell has played 13 offensive snaps this year in two games, according to Pro Football Reference.

Given his role on special teams, Brightwell is an aggressive player – which is likely appreciated by Daboll. Additionally, he was targeted twice in the passing game in the loss against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, so perhaps Brightwell could see some action as a receiver as well.

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Gray could be the wild card of the group, and being the unknown rookie in the draft probably makes him the most attractive option for many fans. However, he has yet to take an offensive snap.

Gray was a fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma in April and returned two punts for 21 yards in two games played. He’s not the fastest running back, but Gray has a slippery element to him. In three preseason games, Gray rushed 17 times for 36 yards and a touchdown while catching six passes for 58 yards.

In his final season with the Sooners, Gray rushed for 1,366 yards, caught 33 passes for 229 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. CBS Sports NFL draft expert Chris Trapasso gave the Giants’ selection of Gray at No. 172 overall a “B+” grade:

“Versatile weapon at RB. Deceptive elusiveness. Quickness is more impressive than his speed. Balance difficult to upset. Good time to deepen Saquon Barkley.”

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