A wide receiver knows he is having a good summer when he catches passes that aren’t even intended for him.
That was the case for Richie James, who added to his already impressive training camp performances in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. Tyrod Taylor threw a fastball over the middle to Collin Johnson, putting it high in the air so the 6-6 Johnson could jump and get it. He nearly did, but as he was attempting to make the grab, he was hit by a defender and the ball glanced off his hands.
Up in the air it went, about 10 yards beyond where Johnson had tipped it — right to where James was waiting for it.
“It was just one of those plays where the quarterback had trust in Collin and he threw the ball to Collin,” James said. “Stuff happens on the football field all the time, and I was just there to save the day.”
James wound up making another catch on that drive, this one for a touchdown. He wiggled off the line of scrimmage, found himself wide open in the end zone and Taylor put the football on him.
When camp opened a few weeks ago, James didn’t appear to be one of the most important wide receivers on the Giants’ roster. A former seventh-round pick of the 49ers, he was used mostly as a punt returner in his first three NFL seasons but had a career-high 23 catches in 2020 before missing all of 2021 with a knee injury that required surgery. A free agent, he was signed by the Giants in March without much fanfare. He figured to supply some special teams value and offensive depth.
But with Sterling Shepard on PUP recovering from an Achilles injury, Kadarius Toney (who had a hot start to camp) sidelined because of an injury, Kenny Golladay looking far from impressive in what he had hoped would be a rebound season, and Darius Slayton struggling to find a role in the offense, James could wind up being a significant piece of the Giants’ plans as they come together over the next month.
This new Giants regime seems to have a type at wide receiver. They drafted 5-8 Wan’Dale Robinson and signed the 5- 9 James. Perhaps it is no coincidence that those two have been the steadiest and most impressive receivers for the team this summer. As fall arrives, that may remain the case.
James isn’t thinking about that, even as he climbs the depth chart and adds versatility to his repertoire just about every day.
“I haven’t played football in a year,” he said. “It’s one of those things where they want to see if I can still do what I’ve done before. We’re in a league where it’s ‘what can you do for me now?’ ”
James is showing the Giants just that.
Notes & quotes: You don’t have to play for Wink Martindale to appreciate Wink Martindale. Giants linebacker Austin Calitro spent time with the Bengals during the last two seasons between their training camps, active roster and practice squad. He recalled running Martindale’s Ravens schemes on the scout team for upcoming contests against the division rival. “This is pretty fun,” he remembers thinking of all the aggressiveness and blitzing he got to do in practices in Cincinnati. “Now being here up close and in person, you can tell there’s a method behind the madness. It’s fun being a part of this defense when everyone does their jobs the right way.” . . . Brian Daboll said the four players who have yet to participate in training camp — wide receiver Sterling Shepard, center Nick Gates and offensive tackle Matt Peart (PUP) and linebacker Azeez Ojulari (non-football injury) — are “getting closer” to a return but offered no timelines. Ojulari, who showed up to camp with a hamstring injury, would seem most likely to be cleared before the regular season. The other three are coming off major injuries and surgeries. “They’re improving day to day and hopefully they’ll be out there as soon as they can,” Daboll said . . . All NFL teams must trim their rosters from 90 to 85 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday. Most of the Giants’ moves to reach that threshold figure to involve injured players.