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WR Kenny Golladay: The Good, the Great and the Ugly

Nick Falato takes a closer look at wide receiver Kenny Golladay's overall game, and identifies what there is to like and what there is not to like

Year 3 may prove to be pivotal in the career of Daniel Jones. The young signal-caller out of Duke is heading into this third year and hasn’t yet assembled a consistent season of football.

In Year 1, he struggled with turnovers, albeit he showed many positive signs of progression. Last year, in a truncated off-season learning a new system last year, Jones failed to move the offense consistently.

Now Jones is staring into his third season as the Giants starting quarterback, and there are questions, especially when a decision on his fifth-year option has to be made by next May. Jones finds himself in a similar boat to Josh Allen, the Bills quarterback who was heading into his third season last year.

Like Jones, Allen had a lot to prove heading into his third year; Brandon Beane, the general manager of the Bills, knew it was imperative to surround Allen with talent to maximize his abilities as a quarterback (sound familiar?).

Beane pursued disgruntled wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings, and the former Maryland product only went on to lead the league in receptions and receiving yards.

Weapons like Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and a healthy Saquon Barkley are solid. However, within Jason Garrett’s offense, finding a true “X” would help this offense take a necessary step. Gettleman knew this, so he opened up the checkbook wide to sign former Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

Golladay is a big-play threat who is 6’4, 215 pounds, with a long catch radius. He is one of the best contested-catch wide receivers in the NFL.

He suffered through injuries last year that prevented him from playing most of the season, but he’s presumably healthy and ready to show his talents off in the Big Apple. Let’s see what he can offer this Giants offense in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.

The Good: Vertical Ability

The 2020 Giants offense struggled to push the ball vertically, even though Daniel Jones was efficient as a deep-ball passer. Finishing 31st in points and yards gained is unacceptable if Daniel Jones wants to earn a second contract.

It’s not all on his shoulders--the offensive line needs to prove its worth, and Jason Garrett needs to do a better job with his personnel--but Jones has to do a better job sustaining drives and developing explosive plays, and Golladay will help!

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Golladay has averaged 17.0, 15.2, 18.3, and 16.9 yards per catch in each season of his NFL career. There’s a lot of nuance to Golladay’s route running, one of the less talked about parts of Golladay’s game.

Here, he’s facing a jam, so he attacks the inside of the cornerback, showing good physicality to fight through with his outside arm. Then, around the 34-yard-line, he turns his torso and angles more inside--signifying a horizontal breaking route. He slightly turns his shoulders, his head and tilts his body in that direction to further deceive.

The corner stops moving vertically and starts to go horizontally, and Golladay just explodes back vertical, leaving the defender behind. A great manipulation by Golladay.

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The foundational route in a vertically based offense is the 9, or go route. It’s just a vertical shot, and Golladay runs this against off-man coverage in a middle-of-the-field closed look. He does a magnificent job, once again, manipulating the cornerback and beating the safety as well.

He fires off the line of scrimmage and then explodes off his outside foot selling a skinny post while subsequently exploding back outside off his inside foot; this gets the corner guessing and forces his feet to be “stuck in mud.” The double-move gives the corner confidence that Golladay is staying outside with his stem.

The big receiver closes width, gets up to the corner’s feet, gets his hips turned, and then explodes back inside before stacking the corner and fading back outside to avoid the middle of the field safety.

He then gets his eyes up, locates, and tracks the football into his grasps for a beautiful catch. This is just a work of art from Golladay.

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Here is a beautiful way to get off the line of scrimmage against a press alignment. Golladay starts his stem inside and starts to lean into the cornerback at around the 25-yard-line.

He continues with the lean up till the 20-yard line, and then he breaks hard on his outside foot, creating just a bit of separation on the post. Matt Stafford puts up a beautiful pass over the middle of the field, and Golladay wins the contested catch situation for a touchdown.

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Golladay shows versatility by lining up in the slot and using his vertical ability to attack the seams on a slight bend/seam route. The Chiefs are in a man-match defense. 

When the boundary receiver runs a quick curl that tells the apex defender that he has to cover the flat, signifying that the boundary corner needs to assume responsibility for any vertical route to that side of the field.

It’s on Golladay to bend this seam route just enough so he can get behind the linebacker, dropping to depth and in front of the corner coming from the outside.

He comes off the line quickly, finds the space between three defenders, and Stafford fires a dart for an easy twenty-plus yard gain. Golladay is very good at catching footballs in stride and not losing a lot of momentum.

Golladay’s ability to win vertically at the line of scrimmage needs to be used often by Jason Garrett, who comes from a more air-based, Coryell type of attack.


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The Great: Contested Catch Ability

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Let’s start with week 8 in 2019, a 31-26 Giants loss, where Golladay was exploiting first-round pick DeAndre Baker (27). The coverage is tight on this out route in the red zone, but Golladay is able to make an acrobatic type of catch by leaping up and climbing the ladder to high point the ball before securing it into his frame. 

He shields the catch point well from Baker and scores the touchdown for his offense. Let’s quickly check out the end zone copy of this catch before we move on.

That ability to shield the catch point comes in handy whenever Golladay gets leverage on his routes or in contested catch situations.

Here Golladay runs a skinny post and can use his outside shoulder and wide frame to keep the cornerback, who is in tight coverage, from playing through the catch point. 

Creating separation isn’t just the ability to leave defensive backs in the dust, but it’s the ability to provide space for the quarterback to throw the football--Golladay does this well with his body.

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Being strong at the catch point is vital all around the field, but especially when going over the middle into traffic on digs, posts, or in breaking type of routes. Golladay does a very good job winning in one on one, contested-catch situations--something that should benefit Daniel Jones greatly.

Watch how he destroys the cornerback at the line of scrimmage and quickly stacks him before hitting the dig route. The throw is behind and towards the cornerback, but Golladay adjusts beautifully to haul in a tough catch through contact.

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He does something similar from the slot position here, only this time towards the bottom of the screen. This is a quick play-action slant against Tyrann Mathieu (32), who is planting and driving underneath Golladay’s route.

The big receiver has to jump up and make a hands catch while being hit by one of the better safeties in the league while also using his body to shield the catch point in this contested situation. Just like the last clip, the ball is slightly behind, but Golladay grabs and secures quickly not to allow Mathieu to force an incompletion.

Here are two more impressive yet very different types of catches from Golladay. They both show awe-inspiring adjustment ability in the air while also showcasing superior tracking ability.

One of them is over the shoulder and toe-tapping, the other is over a safety coming in and high pointing--both are hopefully familiar sights in 2021 with the New York Giants.

The Ugly: Injuries

Most of the 2020 season was marred by injuries for Kenny Golladay; the star wide receiver was dealing with hip issues and, down the stretch of the season, hamstring problems.

There were also rumblings that Golladay was on bad terms with the Lions coaching staff which may have prevented him from wanting to play as well. Nevertheless, the Giants’ doctors checked Golladay out, and he passed the physical.

Golladay did miss all but five 2020 games; anytime a hip becomes a concern that warrants investigation and should cause hesitancy, even for a player as talented as Golladay.

The receiver has also had two separate hamstring issues in his left leg, a concussion from 2019, an elbow dislocation that dates back to his time at Northern Illinois, and a chest injury from 2018. These aren’t serious, other than the hip, but injuries can prevent star players from shining.

A healthy 2021 would allow Golladay to thrive, which will also more than likely help Daniel Jones prove his long-term value to this franchise. 

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