In New York, the Tony Awards just finished but the Toney Era is just beginning.
The hamstring injuries suffered on Sunday by starting receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton could be the push that forces the Giants into showing more trust in rookie Kadarius Toney. The first-round pick has four catches for 14 yards through three games.
“To say someone is going to just jump in and just replicate completely what we do with those two guys, I don’t think that’s something we’re going to look to do,” coach Joe Judge said. “It’s going to be more about playing to his strengths, giving him the opportunity to get the ball in his hands and make some plays.”
Trained eyes should notice that is a different tune than Judge usually sings. No discounting the idea of predetermined targets. No warning on the risks of forcing the ball to one receiver. No talk of quarterback Daniel Jones going through progressions and reading what the defense is giving.
Judge sees what others see: A playmaker getting too few touches on an offense settling for too many field goals.
“It’s something we’re focused on right now,” Judge said. “We’ve got to get him the ball and we definitely want to. We saw [Sunday] a couple of glimpses of just him with the ball in his hands. He’s got the ability to make some guys miss in space, he runs hard and he competes. He comes off the ball with a different level of speed than a lot of guys.”
Toney made back-to-back catches for 16 yards but had nothing to show for his other 44 offensive snaps against the Falcons in Week 3. With Shepard and Slayton out for the final three quarters, the Giants turned to Collin Johnson (first game active) and C.J. Board (signed off the practice squad) to complement Kenny Golladay. The Giants have not used Toney as a kickoff returner — Board’s job — despite his success at Florida.
Johnson (five catches for 51 yards) is a second-year pro who joined the Giants off waivers on Sept. 1, so the excuse of Toney’s youth and not having enough time to acclimate to the offense because of missed practices in the spring and summer no longer hold water.
Rookie receivers are making a big impact around the NFL — as is the case most years with first- and second-rounders — and the Giants bypassed offensive-line and pass-rush help at pick No. 20 because of the thought Toney added a different element to their offense even when the receiver corps is at full strength. Shepard is hopeful to play this Sunday, per a source.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to manufacture 50-60 snaps artificially with [Toney],” Judge said, “but in terms of how the Saints are playing, and if the opportunity presents itself, we’ll definitely try to get him the ball.”