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Kadarius Toney film study: 5 plays for Giants fans to get excited about

We turn to the tape to see what the Giants’ first-round pick brings to the table

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The New York Giants took Florida wide receiver and offensive weapon Kadarius Toney in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday night. The 6-foot, 193-pound Toney adds a lot of excitement into an offense that already added Kenny Golladay, John Ross, Devontae Booker, Kyle Rudolph this offseason (with a returning Saquon Barkley as well).

Toney had 120 catches on 150 targets, with 12 touchdowns, for 1,583 receiving yards while at Florida. He only dropped 3 passes, albeit he struggled with drops at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. 2020 was his first full-time year as a wide receiver and he caught 70 of 84 targets for 977 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing the ball 19 times for 161 yards and a score. His film is littered with impressive, game-changing, type of plays. Let’s dive into a few.

Play 1: Wait, he scored on that?

It is hard to see how Toney manipulated the coverage on this clip, but he comes off the line of scrimmage and does a good job keeping the defender guessing. He shimmies a bit outside, selling a break, and then explodes back inside and underneath the defender, whose hips are turned in the wrong direction. Then, Toney proceeds to run through about five defenders. Toney has incredible stop/start ability and he is really fluid in space. He has a unique blend of acceleration, change of direction, lateral movement skills, short area burst, and ... contact balance.

Play 2: Wait, he scored on this one too?!

This is just a simple screen pass to the boundary side with running back flare action to cause hesitation within the defense. Toney just operates so well in short, confined, spaces; he’s so low to the ground, runs well behind his pads, and defenders have to square up and get clean hits on him because he has the ability to just embarrass good football players. That’s Missouri’s defense in that clip, and they’re going to have several players, some drafted on Day 2, who were taken to school by Toney on this play.

Mmy favorite part of this play is the set up move back inside after avoiding Nick Bolton’s (32) first tackle attempt. Toney catches the ball, turns upfield, sees the defender waiting, and then just plants his outside foot in the ground and explodes back inside in such a quick manner before forcing the defense to rally inside which allowed the outside to be vacant once Toney shed the tacklers. It may not have been planned that way, but it certainly worked out. And, just for fun, let’s see that play from another angle.

Toney shows great strength and will to not get brought down here. Contact balance is one of the best traits for any ball carrier and Toney certainly possesses it.

Play 3: Deep tracking

A critique on Toney is the raw nature of his routes, and something I noticed on film was a lack of consistent tempo control. He’s great in and out of breaks, but I did sense that there were times when he would get a bit sloppy because of a lack of overall body control heading into his breaks, though it wasn’t a glaring issue.

On the play above, he really masters tempo and shows a nice second gear. He keeps the defender guessing as he eats into his leverage before sinking his hips and exploding outside, keeping the defender flat footed and confused - no one on that Alabama defense was catching him here. The separation outside, and away, from safety help was too easy for Toney and I also love his tracking ability here. Effortless looking catch, as it should be.

We see Texas A&M playing a cut technique on the number three receiver who darts to the flat. This prompts the number two defender to jump the flat route, while the defender over the number one receiver (outside) attempts to defeat the stalk attempt from the number one receiver. This puts the A&M defender on Toney as the original defender aligned over the number three receiver. Toney has a total position advantage on the play as he has outside access, the defender is way too far inside, and Toney is just a better athlete. The tracking ability comes up again over the shoulder; it looks easy and suggests that his aDot can come up a bit from his 7.7 yards per target last season.

Play 4: Jet-sweeps

In order to maximize a talent like Kadarius Toney, the offensive coordinator has to get him the ball more frequently and in more creative ways. This wasn’t the calling card for Jason Garrett in 2020, but it has to be a point of emphasis heading into the 2021 season.

I’m not quite sure how Toney broke out of that tackle in the alley, but I love to see it now that he’s a Giant. I also love to see Toney’s vision on this play; he notices the hole and the blocks materializing on the outside, so he sticks his outside foot in the ground and challenges that alley defender - Toney won. He plays with a lot of physical and mental toughness and he has a running backs mentality, along with the contact balance of a running back as well. His deep speed isn’t his strong suit, as you can see. His athletic traits are superior in almost every way, but his deep speed and breakaway ability is only good, not elite (nitpicky, right?).

Now here’s a play that shows really good patience as a runner. There’s a hole that opens up on this stretch zone with a lead blocker, but Toney waits to see what the linebackers intentions are - playing the game of cat and mouse. Once the weak side linebacker fails to scrape over the top and outside, and the safety comes down hard into the open hole, Toney just trusts his blocks and goes to the space outside. Then he tiptoes the sideline, avoids contact, and scores an easy touchdown.

Play 5: Use off motion

It would be wise for the Giants to use Toney on the move. Get him moving and changing assignments right before the snap with pre-snap movement/motion that will allow plays like the one above to happen. The defense is in man coverage and the defender never gets set at all; Toney motions to the field side and sells an outside route to force the defender to unnecessarily bite. Once that defender’s feet, eyes, hips, and momentum are going outside, Toney just explodes back inside and creates almost 10 yards of separation against the defender. Florida head coach Dan Mullen frequently used Toney on plays like this and the Giants must do the same.

Concerns

Toney brings a lot of passion and fight when blocking. He doesn’t mail it in, but there are reps on tape that leave something to be desired, like the one above. He’s at the bottom of the screen here and he allows the defender to initiate contact and dictate the movement. Toney doesn’t bring his feet with him through the block and he allows the defender an easy path to just disengage and crash inside. Again, this isn’t a huge referendum on his blocking ability or will - he’s a willing blocker. He’s not small, but his frame is lean. There’s plenty of good reps of him giving 100 percent while blocking, but I did see a few reps like the one below.

There were a few different occasions where I saw Toney go to block and his assignment ran right past him, and it looked as if he was searching for another player to block, but it seems clear that his guy ran past him unabated. These kinds of details can easily be corrected, as long as the player is a willing blocker, which Toney seems to be, so I’m not overly worried about these mental mishaps. His processing as a route runner and with the football in his hands suggests a smart football player with a high amount of processing ability, especially against zone coverages.

My concern with Toney isn’t really this blocking — those are more observations to acknowledge — but it’s more so his ability to defeat press coverage. He wasn’t asked to do so all that often at Florida and his releases off the line of scrimmage are still rudimentary. New York will have to keep him off the line of scrimmage most of the time and allow him to have easier releases. Also, he showed great tempo on play one of deep tracking, but that’s something I still feel he could clean up a bit.

Final Thoughts

The Giants gave Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett another weapon by selecting Toney after the trade down with the Chicago Bears. I’m not going to lie, the pick took me by surprise. Toney is a playmaking offensive weapon, but I wasn’t sure that the Giants would draft him over Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore or Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman. Nevertheless, he’s a Giant now. If he stays healthy and avoids getting into trouble (he had some issues when he was younger), then New York should be primed to ingratiate him into the lineup while he uses his playmaking ability to add to an already solid special teams group.

Toney isn’t going to play 80 percent of the snaps in the early part of the season, especially if the Giants are healthy. Garrett will have to work his 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) around wide receivers like Golladay, Slayton, Shepard, Ross, and now Toney, which is why we may see an uptick in some 11 personnel packages. I am intrigued to see how Garrett manages the talent he now has on the roster. As for Toney, the Giants added a big play threat who is dangerous with a football in his hands. Now, let’s see if they can add some players at the EDGE position or the interior offensive line on Day 2.