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Giants must keep feeding electric Kadarius Toney with other key receivers set to return

Kadarius Toney TREATED ART 101521

Kadarius Toney TREATED ART 101521

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants had their reasons for keeping Kadarius Toney under wraps for the first four games of the season. They sounded good at the time, though they look shortsighted and silly now.

But now that they know what he can do, now that they’ve seen him in action, they are fresh out of excuses. It doesn’t matter what their offensive plan is, what the defense is doing, or which of their injured players come back to the lineup in future weeks.

The Giants need to get Toney the ball as often as possible, and in as many creative ways as they can.

That may seem obvious on the heels of Toney’s breakout game – his 10-catch, 189-yard explosion last Sunday in the loss in Dallas – but it’s also easy to see how the Giants could screw this up. Coaches tend to overthink things like this and have a tendency to lean on veteran players. And now Sterling Shepard, who was the Giants’ best receiver all summer, looks like he’ll play on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. Darius Slayton should be back, too. And Kenny Golladay shouldn’t be far behind them.

But none of them have ever seemed capable of bringing the kind of excitement and energy to the offense that Toney brought for a little while against the Cowboys. None of them have shown his explosiveness, his moves, his abilities to make defenders look lost.

“He’s electric with the ball,” Shepard said this week. “You get the ball in his hands and he’s going to make something special happen. We’ve got to continue to do that, and everybody else has got to play their part.”

Shepard gets it. Hopefully Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett does, too.

He seemed to when he spoke about Toney this week, and about how a player with his ability to get open in tight spaces can mean everything to an offense. “The game has become a lot more about space,” Garrett explained. “And when you get a guy in space who can make people miss and make plays for you, that changes your offense.”

Shepard has the ability to do that, but not with the explosion that Toney displayed. And Golladay is a different receiver, more of a big target who can fight for contested catches rather than creating room.

Toney is just different. He’s got an explosion the Giants haven’t seen in a receiver since Odell Beckham, Jr. He showed off moves better than almost anything they’ve seen from Saquon Barkley over the years. He fought for catches with receivers draped all over him. When he caught the ball while surrounded by multiple defenders, he consistently made them all miss.

Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) catches the ball over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium.

Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) catches the ball over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium.

He is, in short, everything the Giants’ offense has been missing in the Daniel Jones Era – a receiver that allows a quarterback to just throw it in his direction, then sit back and watch the show.

“Obviously he’s a very dangerous athlete,” Garrett said. “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.”

In other words, he’s a playmaker. So let him make plays, which is what the Giants should have been doing since the start of the season. The reason the Giants gave over and over again this summer for why Toney, their first-round pick, wasn’t doing anything was that he wasn’t practicing. He missed most of the spring workouts, then he started training camp with COVID, and then he was hobbled by a hamstring injury the rest of the way. The Giants coaches kept saying that he had to work his way back into the rotation. He had to practice more before he could play.

As valid as that sounds, though, it never made sense and it makes even less sense now. Surely, they could’ve come up with a handful of ways to play a guy who has his special abilities. Surely, even just a few passes thrown in his direction would’ve helped an offense that couldn’t find its way.

That’s the lesson they need to remember now. Yes, Shepard is probably the No. 1 option in their passing offense now that he’s back, and he’s earned that status over time. Golladay will eventually return to his spot as the No. 1 receiver, which might push Toney all the way down to No. 3.

But those numbers don’t matter, as long as Toney doesn’t become an afterthought. He must become a focal point of this offense from now on, or at least a huge part of it. If he can make plays like he did on Sunday, no excuse is good enough to bury him again. There can’t be any nonsense about progressions or flow of the game or earning his opportunities. Just look at the tape. Or listen to his teammates.

It’s pretty clear nobody else on the offense can do what Toney just did.

“He’s twitchy, man,” Shepard said. “I was calling him a jitter bug. It’s hard because I remember whenever he caught the ball when I was in the game and I saw him make a couple (of defenders) miss, and I’m sitting there (watching) and I’m like, ‘I need to be blocking somebody.’

“He’s fun to watch, man.”

Yes he is. And the Giants, mired in a years-long offensive slump, just can’t afford to ignore that. They need to ride him as long as possible, until he slows down or shows that his game in Dallas was a fluke. Just get him the ball and let him show off the talents that convinced the Giants to take him with the 20th overall pick of the draft back in April.

Don’t overthink it. Don’t make up excuses. Just put the ball in Toney’s hands and then sit back and watch the show.

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