The Giants’ plan for Kadarius Toney since the day they drafted him in April was to sprinkle him into the offense as an accent flavor. A few dashes here, a couple of pinches there. They wanted him to be the zest that elevates but does not define the dish.
That’s about to change.
Maybe out of necessity. Maybe for the best.
With their top three receivers banged up — Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton suffered hamstring injuries on Sunday and likely will be sidelined, and Kenny Golladay is pushing through a hip injury — the Giants can no longer afford to treat Toney as an accoutrement. He is, three games into the season, their healthiest and best option in the passing game. Joe Judge recognizes that.
"It’s something we’re focused on right now," Judge said. "We’ve got to get him the ball and we definitely want to."
The problem is that’s not as easy as next-man-up. Toney is a different type of receiver than his battered teammates. He can’t just step in for Shepard in the slot or Slayton on the outside and run the same routes they did. To really get the most out of him, the Giants are going to have to restructure their entire offensive scheme. They’re going to have to build a passing offense around him, rather than try to ram him into the existing model.
Luckily for them this falls in line timing-wise with the team’s desire to adjust its offensive game-planning. Judge said offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will continue to call the plays but also said there would be "adjustments" in how the offense functions.
Given the lack of productivity in the first three games, there shouldn’t be many objections to that idea.
This Sunday’s game is in New Orleans, after all. The Giants should make like Emeril, grab a fistful of their spiciest Toney plays and— Bam! — throw them into their dull call sheet to kick things up a notch.
"It’s going to be more about playing to his strengths, giving him the opportunity to get the ball in his hands and make some plays," Judge said, providing a quick glimpse of what such an offense might look like. "I was pleased with how he played [Sunday], pleased with the progress he’s making, but I think he’s definitely ready to keep progressing within our offense and find ways to get him the ball."
On Sunday against the Falcons, Toney was on the field for 46 of the team’s 60 offensive snaps, a number undoubtedly elevated by the early exits of Shepard and Slayton. He was targeted just three times and caught two passes for 16 yards. Neither of those receptions were prolific, the longest going for 9 yards. Neither was boring, though.
If the Giants want to continue down the offensive path they have been forging for a year and three games, they can simply put C.J. Board and Collin Johnson and maybe John Ross (if he is well enough to come off IR this week) on the field and pretend they are Shepard and Slayton and keep going.
Or they can do something drastic and potentially dynamic and start to make Toney a central talent in the offense rather than a supporting actor.
"I think we saw a couple of glimpses of him with the ball in his hands," Judge said. "He’s got the ability to make some guys miss in space, he runs hard and he competes. He comes off the ball with a different level of speed than a lot of guys, so in terms of trying to get him the ball, that’s definitely a focus for us going forward."
True, they don’t have many other options. Yes, they were hoping to ease their first-round pick into the system slowly throughout the course of the season. But Toney could be just the thing to break the offense out of its slumber, and maybe even save the season.
Report: Bredeson has hand injury. The Giants may have to undergo further shuffling at left guard. ESPN reported that Ben Bredeson suffered a hand injury on Sunday that may sideline him. If Bredeson can’t play against the Saints the Giants would have to start a fourth different player at the position through the first four games. Bredeson was the only one among the previous two starters there (Shane Lemiuex and Nick Gates) who played a full game there. Matt Skura would likely be the next man up behind Bredeson, although tackle Matt Peart has worked inside a bit and the Giants just added former Washington starter Wes Martin to their active roster on Monday.