Saquon Barkley was taking handoffs from Daniel Jones. Sterling Shepard was running full-speed routes and catching passes from the starting quarterback. Evan Engram was working on his blocking and receiving skills.
For a little while on Monday morning, all was right with the world for the Giants.
There still are obstacles to clear and practices to get through before they get back on the field for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, but if this early-week workout was any indication, the Giants could have their full allotment of offensive playmakers for that contest.
For the first time since, well, the first day of training camp. That was when Shepard fractured a thumb. It kicked off a series of events that have included injuries and suspensions that have prevented the Giants’ offense from ever being fully staffed.
The offseason blueprint for the skill positions was having Barkley in the backfield, Engram at tight end, and Shepard and Golden Tate at wide receiver. Those four players have yet to appear together for a single snap in any game, regular or preseason.
So yes, Monday was a feel-good day for the Giants . . . both mentally and physically.
And did we mention that the Cowboys and Eagles each lost on Sunday to fall to 3-3, meaning the 2-4 Giants are just a game out of first place?
The surprise of the group was Shepard. He suffered his second concussion of the season just over a week ago, and while he remains in the league’s protocol, he seemed to be a vigorous participant in the portions of practice for which he was cleared.
Shepard might not be available for Sunday, but Barkley and Engram appear to be very close. Engram said he is optimistic about his chances of playing Sunday. Barkley posted a video on social media essentially declaring his return with the short message: “I’ll be back soon.”
The three players spent last Thursday having dinner at Shepard’s house and watching the Giants play the Patriots without them.
“It’s unfortunate, and it is something we have kind of talked about and have thought about,” Engram said. “But we still have a lot in front of us and we’re all getting back to the right place.”
The optimism arrives at a point in the schedule when the Giants need to start winning to maintain any hope of contending.
They got some pats on the back — though they declined to accept them — for trying hard in their last two games against superior opponents and what might be the top two defenses in the NFL. Now they have four games before their bye week against challenging but beatable foes. After they host the Cardinals, they will play at the Lions, host the Cowboys on Monday Night Football and face the Jets.
A good month could put them smack in the middle of the race for the division title.
A poor month probably would sink them.
However it works out, at least it seems as if the Giants will be able to determine their fate with most hands on deck for their rookie quarterback. That not only will give the Giants a better chance at winning but give them a better read on Jones and his abilities.
He’s been the starting quarterback for a month but hasn’t always been playing with starting players. Now it looks as if he finally will be surrounded by “ones.’’
The Giants, like all teams, talk about a next-man-up philosophy when it comes to injuries and other circumstances that impact the lineup. But there is nothing like a first-man-back to bring energy to a roster.
For the Giants, the timing of those returns couldn’t be any better.
“Get back to work, that’s the important thing,” Pat Shurmur said of the mindset as the team returned from a weekend off. “Get back to work and put all of our efforts into winning the next game.”
And, perhaps, all of their players too.