Saquon Barkley-less Giants get big lift from two ex-roommates

DETROIT — Davis Webb and Wayne Gallman were roommates for a few months last year when both were rookies trying to learn what it takes to play for the Giants.

“He studied every day,” Gallman said of Webb. “He always gave me flash cards to hold up and then he would ask me questions about plays and have me calling out plays. He was studying 24/7. He kind of helped me out, too.”

Perhaps it was fitting that both second-year players made good impressions Friday night as the Giants claimed a 30-17 victory over the Lions in a preseason game at Ford Field. Webb, the third-round pick from Cal in 2017, redeemed himself after a lackluster showing in the preseason opener last week against the Browns, when he was 9-of-22 for 70 yards and no touchdowns. Against the Lions, Webb played with poise and precision, completing 14-of-20 passes for 140 yards in his first half of duty.

But Gallman, the fourth-round choice out of Clemson, delivered a few reassuring moments of his own, rushing five times for 26 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Gallman caught an 8-yard pass from Webb in the second quarter to give the Giants their first touchdown and a 7-3 lead. He later added an 11-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter to put the Giants up 24-3.

While Webb might have offered some reassurance he could be a reliable backup and potential successor to Eli Manning, Gallman’s gritty performance made the absence of Saquon Barkley seems less catastrophic. Barkley sat out the game with a strained hamstring, and the Giants running game suffered early.

The Giants’ first-team offense gained just 15 yards rushing in the first half on 11 attempts against the Lions. That’s a pitiful 1.4 yards-per-carry average. Veteran running back Jonathan Stewart had four rushing attempts for a minus-1 yard, while Gallman led with 15 yards on four carries.

That put added pressure on Webb to make plays, especially on third downs. He was able to do that, particularly during a massive, 17-play, 79-yard drive that bridged into the second quarter. Webb completed 7-of-10 passes for 65 yards during the drive, the final throw that 8-yard touchdown pass to his old roommate, Gallman.

“It was a better catch than it was a throw,” Webb said.

That Gallman made the catch is no small thing. He spent much of the offseason working on his receiving, hoping he could turn into a more complete running back. Gallman played in 13 games last season and rushed for 476 yards. He also caught 34 passes for 193 yards and one score.

“I feel way more comfortable this year,” he said. “We went through a lot last year and I think I learned a lot. Going into this year, I worked on things in the offseason with the passing game and learning the offense and it’s showing. I’m having fun out there. I’m not too much worried about knowing the plays because I already know it.”

Late face it, without Barkley in the lineup, the Giants’ running game looks less imposing. Stewart has experience and might have a few miles left on his tires, but not much. Gallman looks like serviceable NFL back, but not someone a defense needs to game-plan for. The rest of the running backs are long-shots to make the team. With Barkley out of the lineup, the Giants didn’t start finding success on the ground against the Lions until the second- and third-teamers where in the game.

“Early on, we did not do a good of a job running the ball,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “By the end we worked our way into runs that were working. We had a couple of drives late where we had much more success running the ball.”

Shurmur was happy for Gallman.

“Starting the spring we saw improvement from him,” the coach said. “It’s good to see a young guy fighting to have success.”

While Webb’s performance Friday night calmed some nerves, Gallman showed he might be a bigger compliment to Barkley than expected.

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