For many reasons, the Giants have not been able to showcase wide receiver Kadarius Toney, their first-round draft pick, so far this season.
But when Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton were ruled out for the game in New Orleans Sunday, Toney's presence not only became a desire but a necessity as the team would be short two of their top three pass-catchers. It was clear early on that the mission was to utilize Toney's skills and get him involved.
The results showed why the Giants believed that Toney was too valuable of a talent to pass up in the draft's first round.
Here are some of the different ways the Giants were able to get him involved on Sunday.
Taking the Top Off the Defense
Toney has the speed and explosiveness to stretch a defense vertically, and his draft measurements back that up.
Early on against the Saints, the Giants wanted to establish their ability to take the deep shot to loosen the underneath coverage and give their offense some more space. They deployed Toney to help with this objective.
In this clip, Toney is lined up wide to the right with the defensive back pressing. He takes an inside release, pushes vertical, and stacks on top of the cornerback on the snap.
The ball that Daniel Jones throws had to be more outside and away from the safety to keep it from harm. That said, the Giants' fired a warning shot to future opponents: Don’t get too close, or we will blow by you.
The Screen Game
It's been a while since the Giants have had a decent screen game, but with Toney in the mix, they have a chance of changing this narrative.
On a 3rd-and-18, most defenses are trying to protect against giving up the first down. As a counter, offenses will dial up screens or draw plays to catch the defense playing passively.
This is the case in this clip. Toney is lined up as the slot receiver to the right in this 3x1 empty set. On the snap of the ball, he runs a whip route (run to the flat and loop back inside. This allows the center and guards to try and work downfield to make a block, and Toney gets the ball thrown to him behind the linemen.
With the ball in his hands, Toney has the chance to create yards after the catch in space, which he does, and he picks up 17 yards on the play.
The screen game is yet another creative way to get the ball into the playmaking rookie’s hands.
Here is another example of his use in the screen game. This is a slot swing screen on a second down and short. Toney is lined up as the number three receiver.
On the snap, he swings wide, and the other two receivers block for him. If there is a third defender that arrives, that defender is Toney’s responsibility to shake.
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This play is great on those downs where a team only needs a couple of yards for a first down.
Toney picked up a couple of decent blocks, and he made the pursuing linebacker miss, which helped the receiver pick up the first down and keep the chains moving.
Primary target on RPOs and Play-Action
So many times, play-action passes are confused with RPOs, but this is an RPO in the following clip because you can see Daniel Jones read the linebacker as he fills the hole to stop the potential Saquon Barkley run.
Jones pulls the ball out and fires it to Toney, lined up as the single receiver to the right side.
Toney is in the perfect position to not only catch the ball but pick up yards after the catch. He’s able to turn a short pass into something more substantial.
In this next clip, a bootleg, Toney is lined up as the left wing next to the tight end. Jones fakes the outside stretch play to the left and boots right. Toney runs right like he is about to block the backside on the stretch but releases into the flat.
Jones does not hesitate to get him the ball, hopeful that Toney can make something happen. This is known as “taking the easy cheese.” Many times, quarterbacks will waste the easy completion looking to complete a much more complex deep shot.
While the defense played it pretty well, the modest gain was still enough to yield four yards.
This final clip shows Toney lined up on the outside to the left of a tight bunch formation. Jones gets the shotgun snap, fakes the handoff to the running back going left, and tosses the ball to Toney, who is coming around like it is a reverse to the right.
None of the offensive linemen are going downfield, so it is clear that Toney is planning to attempt a pass, but the Saints do a good job of covering the receivers still running routes.
After buying another second or so to see if anyone managed to get open, Toney realizes that he needs to minimize the potential loss of yardage, so alertly he runs to the right, and when he sees a crease, he explodes and gets the ball back to the line of scrimmage.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has been under fire this season for his play-calling, which might not eradicate the ongoing criticism. Still, his deployment of Toney shows a willingness to showcase their talent on this team.
There were balls thrown to Toney at all three levels last week, and he would probably be the first to tell you that he left a couple of plays out on the field.
As Toney becomes more comfortable in the offense, he will be even more dynamic. It will be interesting to see how they integrate the other receivers back into this offense without losing the explosiveness Toney brings.
Maybe an empty set (10-personnel) with Toney, Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton might strike some fear into opposing defensive coordinators. Still, we'll just have to wait and see how Garrett plans it moving forward.
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