The talk was about four to eight weeks of downtime after Saquon Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3. But the Giants’ Pro Bowl running back surprisingly returned to take some practice reps Friday after missing only one game. Then he was declared out for another.
Then backup Wayne Gallman lasted two carries into the first quarter before leaving with a concussion Sunday at MetLife Stadium. So with the Giants down to third-string rookie Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Penny as the main men, their running game didn’t figure to be running that smoothly against the Vikings’ formidable front seven.
The Giants ended up averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and gaining only 64 yards on the ground — which Barkley is capable of picking up in one burst — in a 28-10 loss to the Vikings that dropped them to 2-3.
The Giants will play at New England on Thursday night. At this point, they at least can hope Barkley will be out there living life on the run again.
“It would mean a lot,” tight end Evan Engram said. “That’s a no-brainer. But we’ve got to be smart with his recovery and be smart with his timeline.”
With Barkley out, the “next man up” club members have appreciated the opportunity.
Gallman, in his third year out of Clemson, contributed a career-high 118 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the Week 4 win over Washington. He had 14 yards on his two runs Sunday.
Hilliman was at Boston College for four years before playing last season at Rutgers and then going undrafted. The native of Plainfield, New Jersey, ran nine times for 20 yards, and the Vikings turned back one of his runs for a safety.
Hilliman finished with 33 yards on 10 carries against the Redskins after being promoted from the practice squad.
“Whatever happens, I want to be able to represent [the injured backs] in the best light and go as hard as I can to make sure we still stay afloat running the football,” Hilliman said.
With the Giants trailing 18-7 at halftime, Hilliman spoke with Gallman.
“I asked him how he felt and everything,” Hilliman said. “He wasn’t really worried about himself. He just said, ‘Man, go out there and play. Don’t worry about me. Go out there and play and represent. This is your chance. Go make the most of it, man. You’ll be fine. You’ve been doing well since you’ve been here.’ ”
Penny ran for 15 yards on his three carries. He didn’t think the running game struggled.
“Those guys had the ball longer,” he said. “They were scoring. We couldn’t really get into our game plan like we wanted to. But I felt like when we ran the ball, we were running it pretty efficient at times. We didn’t have Saquon, so we didn’t have a lot of wild plays. But Minnesota is a tough defense.”