A chance. A job. An opportunity.
That was what Richie James was looking for this past offseason.
He may have found everything he was looking for with the Giants. And they may have found an an answer to one of the vexing questions of the Joe Schoen-Brian Daboll era so far:
Who, pray tell, will catch the football for the Giants?
“He’s been very consistent,” Daboll said before practice Friday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. “He’s a very trustworthy receiver. He’s where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there. And I think he’s earned that confidence not just from the coaching staff but from the quarterback as well.”
Indeed. Entering Sunday’s game against the Bears at MetLife Stadium, James, 27, leads the Giants with 14 catches, and his 146 receiving yards are second-most behind Sterling Shepard’s 154.
“Solid,” was the word James used to describe his 2022 season.
Wide receivers coach Mike Groh was slightly more descriptive in his analysis of the Middle Tennessee State product.
“He’s a versatile player,” Groh said. “A guy who showed short-area quickness and burst. He showed the same dependable hands that he’s shown since he’s been here with us.”
His numbers are all the more stunning when you factor that in James’ first three NFL seasons — all with the 49ers —he had 38 catches for 689 yards and three touchdowns. James did not play at all last season because of a knee injury.
“Get a starting job,” James said when asked what his expectations were after signing a one-year $1.065 million contract with the Giants on Mar. 25. “Get some playing time. Contribute. Continue to show that I can still play in this league.”
That’s what he’s done, and he’s benefitted from things outside his control.
Former first-round draft pick Kadarius Toney has been battling a hamstring injury and does not seem likely to play on Sunday. Kenny Golladay has been unhappy with his lack of use. Shepard was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the 23-16 loss to Dallas Monday night.
“Richie has done a great job stepping in,” offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said during his availability with reporters earlier in the week. “He’s stepped up to the plate and you’re going to see that across the board when you have injuries like that. Next man up has got to step up. He’s a guy that we trust in those situations, and he’s done a great job with it.”
As the primary slot receiver, James is a safety valve for Daniel Jones. Through the first three games, he has been targeted 17 times and has dropped only one pass.
“Richie is a smart guy and he’s an instinctive route-runner,” Groh said. “His body language expresses itself to the quarterback which is important for any receiver; not just guys in the slot but to be able to anticipate before a guy is necessarily open as he’s [going to] be approaching the window. It gives a quarterback confidence to let it go a click early.”