The Giants will be honoring another of their past teams on Sunday, only this time it won’t be at halftime. And forget about them carrying any trophies.
Remember the 2020 squad? Chances are you’d rather forget them, especially on offense. That was a crew that was down in the dregs of the league in just about every discernible category from yardage to scoring.
Well, they’ll be back on the field Sunday when the Giants take on the Panthers at MetLife Stadium.
When the Giants have the ball they’ll be lining up with practically the same personnel that plugged through last season. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton at receiver. Evan Engram at tight end. Someone other than Saquon Barkley at running back.
And to make it even more exciting, they’ll be playing behind an offensive line that is — get this! — potentially worse than the one they had at their disposal a year ago. The one returning starter from 2020 is Will Hernandez, who lost his job midway through that season. Three of the best players on that line are unavailable: Nick Gates and Andrew Thomas are on injured reserve, and Kevin Zeitler was released in March because the team thought it could find younger, cheaper options.
The Giants spent this offseason trying to rectify all of this. But with Barkley and receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney not even on the field to participate in drills with trainers at Wednesday morning’s practice, it’s hard to envision them being able to overcome their injuries in time to play in the upcoming game.
All the additions and comebacks and playmakers to help Daniel Jones develop and possibly even excel this season, all the optimism and improvement . . . it’ll be as if it never even happened.
"It changes things up here and there," Jones said of having a cast of weapons this season that has been, um, fluid. "It’s tough to go without guys. But we have guys who have stepped up and we have guys who can make plays."
If they did, then they wouldn’t have spent all that money in free agency and capital in the draft to supplant them.
Joe Judge said there are "no hard timelines" for the return of Barkley, Golladay and Toney. He stressed that none of them have been ruled out for Sunday’s game as of Wednesday. Clearly, the Giants believe they can return before the bye week because unlike Thomas none of them have been placed on injured reserve. That designation would require them to miss three games, so if their time frame to return was longer than that they probably would have been moved there already.
But until they return, the Giants will have to play with their new lineup of skill players. Same as their old lineup. Throwback jerseys included.
"It’s our job to have all of the players prepared, it’s their job to be prepared," Judge said. "In terms of the injuries, unfortunately, it’s part of the game and it’s a part of the game we all sign up for . . . We have to have that ‘next-man-up’ mentality. Not to push anybody out of the way, but when something happens you have to keep moving forward.
"The game is going to be played either way."
The Giants would rather it be played another way, with the offense that helped them win their only game this season on the field. For that to happen and get back on track in 2021, though, they’ll probably have to wait through at least one more game from the 2020 season.