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New York Giants: Top Surprises from First Four Games of 2021 Season

If you didn't anticipate these three surprises popping up within the first four games of the New York Giants' 2021 season, you are not alone.

In Part 1 of our three-part look at stories, surprises and what to watch, we took a look at three developing storylines that have started to shape the New York Giants' 2021 season. 

In this, Part 2, we take a look at the surprises.


Surprises

Oct 3, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) runs from the tackle of New Orleans Saints linebacker Kaden Elliss (55) during the first half at Caesars Superdome.

Oct 3, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) runs from the tackle of New Orleans Saints linebacker Kaden Elliss (55) during the first half at Caesars Superdome.

How Long it Took Kadarius Toney to Get Involved in the Offense

In Week 4, we finally got a chance to see all the dynamic ways Giants rookie receiver Kadarius toney can help an offense.

The only question about what we saw Sunday was what took the Giants so long to get the rookie involved?

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett kept pointing to all the practice time Toney missed in the summer due to his bout with COVID-19 and then a hamstring issue that slowed down his learning of the team’s offense.

But at the same time, we kept hearing from Giants receivers coach Tyke Tolbert how brilliant Toney was in the classroom and how he was the star pupil.

Although Toney is somewhat new as a receiver, much of what he was asked to do for the Giants is stuff he did in college. And his involvement didn’t increase until Sterling Shepard was sidelined due to injury, so the question remains why did it take so long for the Giants to get him more involved?

We might never know the answer, but let’s hope that this is a case of better late than never moving forward.

Oct 3, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Caesars Superdome.

Oct 3, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Caesars Superdome.

The Downfield Passing Game Starts to Take Shape

Don’t look now, but the Giants passing offense—a unit that last year couldn’t make a play to save its life, couldn’t get receivers open, and couldn’t hold off defensive pressures—is currently averaging 282.5 yards per game. That's the seventh-best mark in the league and a noticeable upgrade from the 189.1 yards per game the unit recorded last season.

That kind of growth is a cumulation of several factors, starting with quarterback Daniel Jones’s development in Year 2 of the offensive system. 

There is also the addition of legitimate vertical speed to the offense (Kenny Golladay, John Ross III, and Kadarius Toney), and the surprisingly solid pass protection provided by a Giants offensive line that has fielded six combinations through the first four games yet has an 86.1 pass-blocking efficiency rating, 13th in the league. That represents a massive jump from the 79.8 (31st in the league) rating through four games last season.

Oh, and let’s not forget the part that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has played in the process. Garrett has long been accused by those outside 1925 Giants Drive of lacking creativity, an opinion with which quarterback Daniel Jones disagrees.

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“I think when you watch the tape and you turn it on and you watch other offenses, I don’t think that’s a fair conclusion to draw from comparing different schemes,” he said.

“I think more than anything, it’s been about us executing it and taking advantage of some of those plays that have been there. I thought we did a better job on Sunday, so we’ve got to continue to do that. I think the opportunities have been there and I think the stuff we’re doing on offense has kept defenses on their heels.”

Still, can anyone deny how exciting it was to finally watch plays in which Saquon Barkley was lined up wide against a defensive back or put in space against a linebacker? 

And was anyone unhappy with how Garrett called for passing concepts in which he flooded a zone with receivers, thereby creating more space for the receivers to operate?

Sep 16, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) is sacked by New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari (51) in the first quarter at FedExField.

Sep 16, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) is sacked by New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari (51) in the first quarter at FedExField.

Where's the Pass Rush?

If I had told you that a pass-rushing arsenal that consisted of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence up front, Azeez Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines on the edges, and corners, James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson handling the back end of things would only have six sacks through four games, would you have believed me?

Neither would I, yet that’s where things stand after four games. The Giants have a 4.0 percent sack percentage, 29th in the league, as they’ve had trouble getting home with the pass rush.

And before anyone points out that it’s not all about sacks, but the combination of sacks, pressures, and hits to move an opposing quarterback off his spot, the Giants haven't exactly been solid in that regard either.

Per Radar360, the Giants have hit the quarterback on 9 percent of their pass rushes and have just 16 hurries through four games. Their 41 sack yards rank 27th in the NFL.

Except for Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, opposing quarterbacks have had anywhere from 2.63 seconds to as much as 3.05 seconds to throw the ball after a drop back.

Yes, sacks are the ultimate goal, but that all starts with not giving the opposing quarterback all kinds of time to sit in the pocket, something the Giants pass rush has surprisingly not done a consistent job of in these first four games.

Part 3: What to Watch For, will be online at Noon ET.


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