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Giants WR Kadarius Toney's Impact Finally Being Felt by Offense

The Giants' first-round draft pick has quickly earned the trust of his coaches and teammates.

When the New York Giants began what has already been an arduous 2021 season, many were left asking who--and where--is receiver Kadarius Toney?

Toney, the Giants' first-round draft pick this year out of Florida who went 20th overall, appealed to the Giants for many reasons, including his speed and playmaking ability in the open field, which was displayed through his usage as a kick returner in college.

Yet, through the training camp and the first three games of the regular season, none of that was a factor for a Giants team that started 0-3 for the third time in five years.

A large part of that was Toney's availability. The 22-year-old began training camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list and would later strain his hamstring as he tried to ramp back up, so his practice snaps were limited.

Even when the season began, Toney scraped together an inauspicious start, catching just five receptions for 14 yards in the team's first three games, one of which he didn't receive any pass targets.

But good things came to those who waited. In Week 4 against a strong Saints defense, Toney caught six of nine passes for 78 yards. Last week against Dallas in an important divisional matchup, Toney became the face of the Giants’ offense amid a series of in-game injuries to numerous stars, and his talent emerged on full display.

Practically putting the team on his shoulder, Toney racked up a 10-catch (out of 13 pass targets), 189-yard performance, with four of his five receptions and 70 receiving yards against Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs.

By the time the game was over, Toney broke two Giants’ single-game rookie records--one for most receiving yards by a rookie in a game (186 yards, topping Odell Beckham Jr's previous record of 185 yards set in 2014), and the other for most by a rookie against the Cowboys.

Toney, who is currently tied for second in the league in forced missed tackles (9), also showcased his old quarterbacking skills when he took a direct snap in the Wildcat formation and nearly connected on a touchdown pass.

“He’s a very dangerous athlete,” said Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. “ We’ve seen him in a short period of time do a lot of different things. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands, and he has a quarterback background, so he seems very comfortable doing those things.

"It’s not like, ‘Hey, do this because you’re a really good athlete.’ I mean, he has a feel and an instinct for those things. He has some history with that. I think he’s proving that when you get the ball in his hands, he can do some real positive things for you.”

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Toney’s impact on the Giants offense can be summarized by his unique smarts for the professional game, the team’s game plan, and his ability to use his instincts and athleticism to transition parts of his game and compete.

“I think you’re optimistic when you draft a player that high that he has everything that you want, but until you see it, see it in a practice setting and in a game setting, it’s never really verified," Garrett said.

"I think we felt good about his athleticism coming out. I mean, the numbers were well documented. The plays he made on tape were obvious to everybody to see. I do think his instincts and his feel and how smart he is as a player just early on in this whole process has been impressive.”

That intelligence and versatility stand out in Toney’s route running, which the Giants coordinator says there has been a significant improvement.

“You’re constantly working on refining your routes and making them better, particularly young receivers," Garrett said.

"You ask him to do something, ‘Hey, push that a little bit farther. Take that in a little bit more. Flatten that angle out.’ He kind of nods and says, ‘All right,’ and he does it the next time.”

For all that Toney brings to the table, Garrett implied there was no regret in the timing of getting the rookie involved in the offense. He noted that the decisions regarding Toney's playing time were based on where the young receiver was after missing so much preseason time.

The Giants aren't about to look back and wonder what might have been in those early, lost games. Instead, they are focused on another opportunity to feature the rookie against the Los Angeles Rams this weekend.

The Giants are expected to be without No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay, their primary outside threat. However, receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both are on track to return after missing two weeks with hamstring strains, so it will be interesting to see if Shepard, who has primarily played the slot for the Giants this season, takes on more of an outside role in the offense to allow for Toney to continue receiving those slot snaps.

For now, Garrett and the Giants organization appear happy that Toney is improving and finding his groove in the team’s offense. They’ll need more of his shifty third-down plays that go for 20-yard receptions off three-yard routes if they want to sniff a win on Sunday.


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