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Cardinals Prepare For Saquon Barkley's Return 

Notes: Engram puts defending tight end back in spotlight; David Johnson practices

Linebackers Jordan Hicks (left) and Haason Reddick tackle Falcons running back Davonta Freeman last week.
Linebackers Jordan Hicks (left) and Haason Reddick tackle Falcons running back Davonta Freeman last week.

Jordan Hicks, playing in Philadelphia last season, saw live what Saquon Barkley can do to a defense.

Hicks' Eagles won the game against Barkley's Giants – but only after Barkley erupted for 130 yards rushing on only 13 carries, and gained another 99 yards on nine catches.

"He's one of those backs who can do it all," said the inside linebacker, now the Cardinals' leading tackler. "The way they feed him, everything runs through him."

Technically, Barkley's status for Sunday's game between the Cardinals and Giants in New York is unknown. But Barkley, coming off an ankle sprain that's caused him to miss the last three games, has practiced fully this week and is expected to make his return.

Barkley deftly avoided telling New York reporters Thursday he'd play for sure, but agreed there would be emotions when he does get back on the field.

"I guess you can say (I'll be) 'Angry Saquon,' but it'll be appreciated (when I play)," Barkley said.

In the two full games Barkley has played this season, he gained 227 yards rushing on only 29 carries. He got hurt after only eight carries of his third game. The Giants should also get tight end Evan Engram back from injury as well, but Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said it was obvious that Barkley – when healthy – is the Giants' biggest offensive threat.

The Giants have had a total of 116 rushing yards the last two games. The Cardinals, meanwhile are surrendering almost 133 yards rushing a game, 26th in the NFL.

"He is the real deal and we have to have a plan in place," Joseph said, adding that as a defense, "you pick your poison and spread the stress around."

Hicks said the Cardinals have to rally to the ball all the time – Barkley will break tackles if left one-on-one. Overall, though, Hicks said the preparation isn't different for an elite back like Barkley if only because defenses can't afford that type of thinking.

"I don't think it can be that way in the NFL," Hicks said. "Guys every week are talented enough to gash you on any play. The moment you put your guard down, it's out of the gate."


Joseph was talking about Barkley when he veered into defending other parts of the Giants' offense, including tight ends – a subject that had yet to be broached in the press session.

"Tight end questions? Not yet? They're coming, I'm sure," Joseph said with a smile.

The Falcons' Austin Hooper was the latest opposing tight end to riddle the Cardinals full of holes, with his eight catches for more than 100 yards and a touchdown. In only one of six games this season (in Cincinnati) has the opposing tight end not caused major damage.

Joseph thinks tight ends are in a better place across the league because of the rules and because linebackers are splitting focus between the pass and run.

"You have to have a plan each week to cover the tight end. You can't double tight ends – that's wasted resources," Joseph said. "Maybe third down, but you can't on first and second down numbers-wise, because of the run game.

"You can't spend your nights worrying about stopping tight ends first, second and third downs, because that's very unsound."

Joseph said "we'll see" if Patrick Peterson's return can help overall in guarding tight ends.


Running back David Johnson, who missed practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, returned on a limited basis Thursday as he tracks to likely play on Sunday. Fellow running back D.J. Foster (hamstring) was added to the injury report for the first time as limited.

Also limited were wide receiver Christian Kirk (ankle), safety Chris Banjo (illness), defensive lineman Zach Kerr (ankle), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), linebacker Dennis Gardeck (ankle), safety Charles Washington (shoulder) and punter Andy Lee (hip). Defensive lineman Zach Allen (neck), linebacker Ezekiel Turner (hamstring) and offensive lineman Brett Toth (illness) did not practice.

For the Giants, wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) was limited, while cornerback Corey Ballentine (concussion) did not practice. Not only is Barkley practicing full, so is tight end Evan Engram (knee).

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