The New York Giants shocked the football world yesterday, beating last year’s AFC top-seed Tennessee Titans 21-20 on a gutsy two-point conversion attempt. Yet, on Monday morning, all a large segment of the fanbase can seem to talk about is why Kadarius Toney played so little.
Saquon Barkley looked like the Saquon of old, rushing for 164 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Daniel Jones only threw four incomplete passes en route to 188 yards and two touchdowns through the air. The Giants outgained the Titans 394 to 359.
And they did it all while the receiver many people believe is their most dynamic played only seven snaps.
Seven. That’s 12% of the entire snaps the Giants offense ran on Sunday.
In those seven snaps, Toney was not targeted once in the passing game but ran twice for 23 yards and looked as explosive and athletic as he did during his rookie season last year. It seems those brief flashes stuck in the minds of many Giants fans.
What should have been a win that signaled just how well-prepared and well-coached this team is under Brian Daboll, the talk on social media and on sports talk radio was why the first-year coach decided to play Toney so little.
The first thought was injury since Toney missed practice during training camp due to a leg injury. However, Daboll was quick to dismiss injury as the reason for the lack of involvement. “No, he’s good,” he said, curtly, in the post-game press conference.
So if it’s not injury, what reason could the first-year head coach have for keeping one of his best playmakers off of the field?
The easy answer is simply that, in the eyes of the coaching staff, Toney might not be fully prepared.
The wide receiver missed the voluntary pre-draft minicamp back in April, and, as a result, he was late in picking up the team’s playbook. Then, leg injuries caused him to miss preseason games and practices. So with a new playbook to learn and offseason injuries that have limited his practice time, it’s possible that Toney is simply not caught up to speed with what his new coaching staff is looking for.
Daboll alluded to this after the game when he said, “We have personnel groups for all our receivers. We’ll do that for every game. Maybe it’s more. Maybe it’s less. It just depends on what we’re calling.”
This isn’t just “coachspeak.” This is what Daboll did as offensive coordinator for the Bills. He would identify an opponent’s weakness and scheme his playcalling and personnel packages around it. It’s the reason that Cole Beasley was often more involved versus zone coverage teams while Isaiah McKenzie played more versus man or why some games led to more designed run calls for Josh Allen.
Any indication that Toney is in the doghouse seems foolish given what Daboll said about Toney prior to the season. While scouts before the 2021 NFL Draft questioned whether Toney was most invested in his music career (he raps under the name “Young Juka” than in football), Daboll played Toney’s music at practice.
Kadarius Toney was suspended in 2018 while playing at Florida because he didn’t live up to team standards, but Daboll said in July, “I’ve told you from day one, I’ve been very happy with KT, his approach, how he is as a person, first and foremost, because that’s what matters to me… He’s a good young player that we’re going to help develop anyway we can both on and off the field.”
Anyway they can. Perhaps part of that development is making sure the young receiver is accountable for being fully prepared every Sunday. Perhaps it means not asking him to take on more than he’s ready for. All we know for sure in regards to why Toney wasn’t on the field more is what the coach himself said.
“[Toney] is in plenty [packages],” Daboll added. “Obviously we didn’t get to some of them.”
What they did get to was a victory, and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
The New York Giants team that was on the field on Sunday looked better than any Giants team has in years. It’s only been one game, but it seems that Daboll, who has been one of the most respected offensive coaches in the league for years, knows what he wants his offense to look like. Maybe Kadarius Toney will soon become a bigger part of that. Maybe he won’t. But if this Giants team keeps getting victories, it shouldn’t matter.