EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have a massive hole to fill with Saquon Barkley sidelined by a high ankle sprain. The consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy will be replaced by a third-year player with two career starts under his belt -- Wayne Gallman.
It's clear that it is Gallman's show in the backfield beginning Sunday when the Giants play host to the Washington Redskins (1 p.m. ET, Fox). He will receive the majority of the work with rookie Jon Hilliman (recently signed off the practice squad) and fullback Elijhaa Penny the only other healthy running backs on the active roster.
"We certainly believe in Wayne Gallman," coach Pat Shurmur said this week.
That stamp of approval will make fantasy owners happy. Get ready for a healthy workload for Gallman.
Barkley was averaging 15 carries per game before injuring his ankle while catching a pass late in the first half Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's out 4-8 weeks and, though he hopes to get back sooner, his absence will probably land toward the back half of that timetable.
In the meantime, Gallman should get those 15 rushing attempts as he handles a large majority of the snaps, with Hilliman likely sprinkled in on a few run downs and Penny, the best pass-catcher and blocker of the bunch, getting in during some passing situations.
It's the passing game where Gallman is unlikely to be as involved as Barkley, who played 84% of the total snaps before being injured. Gallman will likely dip into the 70-percentile range but will still see enough action to do some damage. He should experience success running behind an offensive line that has helped produce a league-best 6.3 yards per carry this season.
Some of that can be attributed to Barkley. He's a walking home run, but the Giants' line was built to be a powerful run-blocking unit. Gallman is a power runner. It's a solid fit. He's averaged 1.85 yards after first contact since entering the league, better than backs such as James Conner, Le'Veon Bell, Joe Mixon and Leonard Fournette.
"[Gallman's] a hard runner, he never goes down on the first hit, and he always finds a way to fight for yards," tight end Evan Engram said. "So, I think with his bigger role, his role increasing, he's going to put even more into his preparation. He's a brother of mine, I'm definitely going to be pushing him all week and get him ready for it. I know he will be ready."
The Giants (1-2) should still have success on the ground without Barkley, especially with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones threatening opposing defenses deep downfield (9.8 air yards per target, per ESPN Stats & Information). Jones' approach will demand respect and the Redskins come into the game 28th against the run this season, allowing 142.0 yards per game on the ground.
The Giants' game plan will undoubtedly heavily include Gallman.
"We have a great offensive line, so I'm pretty sure there will be a lot of opportunities," Gallman said.
Gallman has averaged 4.3 yards per carry this season, a respectable number. He's averaged 4.0 yards per carry since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft out of Clemson. He should be in that range again during this starting stretch, although tough upcoming matchups against the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots could lead to a temporary dip.
But a deeper look at Gallman's secondary numbers also indicate success in getting positive yards. He's been stuffed on 13.6% of his career runs compared to Barkley's 22.5%.
"He certainly has shown flashes when he has gotten his opportunity to do it," running backs coach Craig Johnson said. "He's proven it this year. He's run at a high level, he's caught the ball well, he's protected well. That's what you have to be able to do.
"As a starter, you have to be able to do that for the length of the game. That's what has yet to be determined, I can't wait to see that happen."
At the very least, the opportunities will be there as the Giants' starting running back.