The Giants are hoping that their patience in slowly bringing rookie receiver Kadarius Toney back from the COVID-19 list will pay off.
Toney, who on Thursday took his most significant workload to date, had been slowly ramping up and has apparently reached the point where he's overcome what he's needed to contribute more frequently.
"We’re excited about Kadarius," said offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. "Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a ton of him yet, and we’re ramping him up here over the next few days, but you can tell he’s someone who picks up football easily--we saw that in the rookie minicamp.
"We’re excited to get him out there and just see what he can do. There were a lot of positive things on tape from college – that’s why we drafted him as high as we did. So we’re just excited to see him out here on the grass."
So far, Toney's work has seen a little bit on the outside, a little bit in the slot, and some work on punt returns. Garrett said he's been pleased with what the rookie has shown, considering the amount of time he's missed.
"Yeah, the biggest thing with him is just come on in here and try to learn. You know, we haven’t seen him a lot, he was here for the rookie minicamp and he’s working his way back in now, but he’s a really good young man," Garrett said.
"I think he’s a smart football guy and he’s working hard to get himself back up to understanding what we’re asking him to do. Hopefully, over the next few days we’ll get a chance to see out there practicing."
Toney said he spent his time waiting out the COVID-19 virus with his face in his playbook.
" I want to contribute as much as I can to the team, so that’s what it takes," Toney said Thursday. "I feel like I’m getting better every day, learning the playbook day by day more."
Toney said he's also benefitted from having this veteran teammate in his ear to help him along.
"I feel like the whole receiving room contributes as much as they can daily to helping me get better," he said. "The whole receiving room, they got hands on, so the younger guys, the new guys and helping make sure everybody’s on the same page."
For as fast-paced as Toney tends to play the game, he's also willing to be patient in earning his reps.
"Wherever they put me back there to do, that’s what I’m going to do," he said. "I ain’t really selfish, I’m a team player."
More Pre-snap Motion Coming?
There were many questions about the Giants offense last year, but perhaps one of the biggest headscratchers was the lack of pre-snap motion called by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
It's not known what the Giants' final pre-snap motion percentage was last season. In a tweet from November 19, 2020, when the Giants were ten games into their season, ESPN's Seth Walder presented a chart showing the Giants near the bottom of the league in the use of pre-snap motion.
Pre-snap motion can be an offense's secret weapon because it can create confusion for the defense and help the offense figure out coverage.
The results, according to Walder's study, are noteworthy.
Across the league, pass plays -- including sacks and scrambles -- with a man in motion at the snap have earned 0.08 expected points added per play (EPA/P) more than when there is no pre-snap motion. That's roughly the equivalent of the difference between the Chiefs' offense and the Raiders' offense this season. However, plays in which a player was put in motion but then was set before the snap showed only a minimal advantage over non-motion plays.
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On designed-run plays, the edge was even stronger, with a 0.11 EPA/P difference in favor of motion at the snap overplays where there was no motion. And again, the edge for designed run plays in which a player was put in motion but came set before the snap was minimal.
With all this said, Garrett was asked if there were plans to have more pre-snap motion in the Giants' offense this year.
"Yeah, motion is--obviously, if you followed our offense last year, a big part of what we’ve done," he said. "Last year, we ran a lot more of the no-huddle stuff around the line of scrimmage where you don’t run as much motion. We were using tempo--sometimes we went fast, sometimes we went slow.
"We weren’t in the huddle as much last year. I don’t know if you guys could see that on TV, but that was one of the things that we did. Motion and shifting and movement, all that stuff has been a big part of what we’ve done in the past and if we feel like it applies to a particular game plan, we’ll certainly use it."
Giants Dialing Back on Some Players
With hopes of a long season ahead, the Giants have been managing some of the reps of their players, especially those coming off off-season procedures.
One such player who has had his reps dialed back is left tackle Andrew Thomas, who underwent ankle surgery after the season. Thomas has been limited the last two days as a precautionary, according to head coach Joe Judge.
“For some of the guys, coming off the loads they had the year before, and he's obviously coming of an injury and surgery at the end of last year, so we just take all that all of that into account,” Judge said. “It wasn't a direct issue of something we couldn't do, but it was just us being cautious.”
Matt Peart got some snaps at left tackle, with Nate Solder continuing to work at right tackle. Also, Zack Fulton took some reps at center with Nick Gates sliding over to guard.
Shane Lemieux was again a spectator—not a surprise per se, but a good sign in that if his knee was that bad, he wouldn’t be out on the field standing around.
In other injury news, the Giants have been a little thin at edge rusher. Oshane Ximines (PUP/hamstring), Lorenzo Carter (calf), Elerson Smith (unknown), Ryan Anderson (NFI/back), and Trent Harris (unknown) worked on the side with trainers.
Inside Linebacker Reggie Ragland, who has been on the Reserve/NFI list with a hamstring injury, passed his physical and was removed from the list.
Julian Love took some slot cornerback snaps for the second day in a row. This isn’t exactly a new development, though, as according to Pro Football Focus, Love played 61 snaps last year in the slot.
This coaching staff has put a heavy emphasis on versatile players, so with Aaron Robinson recovering from a core muscle issue, Love is likely seeing an uptick in snaps in the slot with an eye toward him potentially filling that role in select situations.
Toney and Adoree’ Jackson were spotted fielding punts. At one point, Toney received some individual instruction from head coach Joe Judge.
Edge Azeez Ojulari is undoubtedly making the most of his opportunities to shine with the first-team defense, especially given all the injuries at that spot. Ojulari has a quick burst off the snap and gets his hands up rather quickly to fend off would-be blockers.
While he hasn’t won every single battle, the rookie has certainly come through on more than his fair share, which no doubt has warmed defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s heart.
“The thing that shows up when he get out there on the football field with pads on is he knows how to play football,” said Graham. “That’s a positive. He’s physical. He’s hard to move. He plays with his hands. I’m excited to keep working with him.”
The Giants return to practice Friday and Saturday and will have a day off Sunday.