Football has become the place for specialization. Not only do players focus on one sport, but they hone their skills to be great at one thing because they know teams will use them to do a specific job. There are not many pass rushers who are great against the run or elite-level pass protectors who are dominant in the run game.
The Giants are full of players who fit this description. Evan Engram is a pass-catching tight end. Azeez Ojulari, who is technically a linebacker, is known as an edge rusher. Wide receivers get labeled as possession receivers, deep threat receivers, run-after-catch receivers. They are considered a slot or an X.
Then there are receivers like Kadarius Toney. They are just referred to as "playmakers."
One word doesn’t seem to accurately quantify the talents of receivers like Toney. After all, possession receivers make plays, right?
Well, Toney has elite-level quickness and change of direction, which allows him to run intricate intermediate and short routes. He has fantastic acceleration to blow the top off a defense quickly. His ability to run after the catch makes him great as a situational runner and in the quick game.
He can catch in traffic, high-point the ball, and track the ball well in the air. His frame is thicker than you might think for a player with his skill set, and he has a toughness that catches you by surprise, which allows him to pick up tough extra yards.
So as a coordinator, what do you do with a talent like that?
One word: Everything!
It took Toney a few games and some injuries to other receivers to begin to see significant playing time. The Giants have a lot of receiving talent, but many of those receivers serve specific purposes. So Toney, who plays several roles, had to digest more of the playbook. That probably slowed down his progress at the beginning of the season.
When he finally got his opportunity, his impact was felt immediately. His six catches for 78 yards in the win over New Orleans pointed to a level of dynamic seen from running back Saquon Barkley. (Pairing those two together would make things much more difficult for defenses.)
In their next game against an outstanding Dallas Cowboys team, Barkley exited early with an ankle injury. Backup Mike Glennon replaced quarterback Daniel Jones after Jones suffered an apparent concussion. Toney then became the focal point of the offense and amassed 189 yards on ten receptions.
Seven of his ten receptions were for double digits, including two that went for over 20 yards and two that went for over 30.
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So how has Toney been used this season so far? He has been deployed as a deep threat on the fade ball or verticals streaking down the middle of the field. Although they have not completed one to him yet, the threat has been etched in the minds of defenders.
He has been used as an intermediate crosser. Once other deep ball threats like Darius Slayton and John Ross (two guys who have been on the receiving end of deep passes) push vertical, it clears out space for Toney to work the deep dig routes.
Toney has feasted in the short pass game, routinely turning three- and four-yard catches into 10+-yard gains. He has had great success in the quick game. Screens and quick passes allow him to use his run-after-catch ability to pick up yards, put the offense in short-yardage situations, or keep the chains moving.
He has a couple carries this season, and you can expect him to get a few handoffs as the season continues, as this was one way he was deployed at the University of Florida, where he averaged 8.5-yards-per-carry.
The Giants have also allowed him to pass the ball twice. He completed one pass for 19 yards, and we don't think we've seen the last of Toney, a former high school quarterback, in this role as his overall role continues to expand in the offense.
Injuries have slowed down Toney since the Dallas game, and overall injuries have affected how this offense operates, but as he gets healthier, you can expect to see him used in all of the ways mentioned above.
The most logical thing to do is get the ball in his hands and allow him to work. Regarding all of his deployment, that seems to be the most logical and easiest thing to do.
So expect to see the Giants use him on shallow crosses and quick screens, which should give him the ability to run after the catch. It also takes the pressure off the quarterback to stand in the pocket and scan the field and the offensive line, who doesn’t need to move defenders off the line or hold back a pass rush for long.
Toney has been a bright spot for New York amid the darkness of losing games and questioning philosophies.
Giants fans should enjoy watching him compete for years to come, and hopefully, his play can help elevate this team to a few more victories.
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