Why the New York Giants' offense is a huge mystery entering Week 1

Why Riddick anticipates a rebuilding year for the Giants (1:39)

Louis Riddick sounds off on the Giants' recent struggles and what they mean for the team's future. (1:39)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The next time the New York Giants have all of their starting offensive skill position players on the field together at full speed will be the first. And it might not happen for a few more weeks because of tight end Evan Engram's calf injury.

In the meantime, the Giants will have to settle for most of the crew -- likely including running back Saquon Barkley -- being on the field Sunday when they play host to the Denver Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).

At this point, it has to be considered a success that the Giants' offense has as many players healthy enough to play, considering the way the team has spent its summer:

  • Barkley is expected to return from a torn ACL suffered in Week 2 last season, but the first time he faced contact in live drills was last week.

  • Two wide receivers who were added in the offseason -- Kenny Golladay via free agency and first-round draft pick Kadarius Toney -- returned from hamstring injuries last week. Golladay will likely be asked to handle close to a full workload in Week 1, but Toney should see playing time in specific packages after missing much of the offseason for issues that included uncomfortable cleats, his contract, a family emergency and a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

  • Tight end Kyle Rudolph, signed in March, missed the spring and first month of training camp as he recovered from offseason foot surgery, but the Giants might need to lean on him Sunday.

Even with those four playmakers expected to be in uniform for the opener, the offense will not be whole until Engram returns from the injury he suffered in the Giants' final preseason game against the New England Patriots.

"We have a vision for what they are and how they fit in, but we need some time on task," Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett conceded.

So patience will be key -- especially for third-year quarterback Daniel Jones, who spent most of his summer working with primarily the same offense that finished last season ranked 31st in the NFL. The Giants' early schedule adds to the concern as their first two games are against an improved Broncos defense that returns All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller and a Washington Football Team defense that ranked No. 2 overall last season.

Golladay is optimistic about the offensive core but acknowledged the immediate challenge.

"When I look in the huddle and see all those guys, it's very exciting," he said. "But people have been in and out of the lineup, so we're going to be a little probably slow to get off. But we've got some workers on this team and I feel like if we put the work in, I feel like we can be really special."

The offense has not looked special yet. It was pedestrian throughout camp, joint practices and preseason games, and it would be quite a feat if the Giants came flying out of the gate.

Especially given an offensive line that again looks like a potential weak spot. Left tackle Andrew Thomas, the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2020, was supposed to be the unit's anchor, along with center Nick Gates. Instead, Thomas allowed a pair of sacks and multiple pressures against Patriots. The Giants remain confident in Thomas, but the performance was a reminder of his inconsistent rookie season.

"It's funny, sometimes the assessments on the outside don't really have the entire picture at hand and understanding all the other 10 pieces that go together," Giants coach Joe Judge said this week. "Now look, everyone can play better. I can coach better, a player can play better. That's why we're here [Monday] practicing. If it was a finished product, we'd just sit on the side and just relax. We're all here to get better."

Thomas isn't the only lineman who has struggled. At right tackle, Matt Peart failed to win the starting spot despite spending most of the summer with the first team. Veteran Nate Solder is the favorite to start at right tackle, and it looks like the Giants will rotate Thomas, Solder and Peart early to determine the best combination.

It's not an ideal situation when facing pass-rushers such as Miller and Bradley Chubb in the opener and Washington's Chase Young and Montez Sweat the following week. However, guard Will Hernandez said outside perceptions of the offensive line won't change the players' approach.

"We are a line of constant improvement," Hernandez said. "We need to get better quick. But it's never going to change ... even if they would have said we were the best O-line in the NFL, I would have given you the same response. We need to get better."

Judge envisions the offense being tough, smart and fundamentally sound. He says the Giants want to play to the players' strengths, but admittedly need to "find out that formula."

Last season the Giants started with a lot of outside (stretch) zone runs with Barkley, but they shifted to rely heavily on inside running plays in part because that was more suited to the line's strengths.

It's hard to know how the Giants will attack Denver, but the third-year quarterback seems to have an idea of what he wants it to look like.

"I think versatility," Jones said. "First and foremost, it's a tough, smart group. It starts up front. All those guys are tough, physical football players and from there we can attack a lot of different ways -- downhill running the ball, vertically stretching the field and getting the ball in space."

It sounds like he envisions featuring power running and play-action passes, but that offense isn't ideal for Barkley and isn't what the Giants showed this summer.

Then again, nobody has seen this offense with all of its top playmakers in the huddle at once.