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Better or worse? Giants go all-in to improve wide receiver group

The Giants needed to get better at this spot, and they did

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants made it a priority heading into the 2021 offseason to add talent at wide receiver.

New York ranked 31st in explosive plays, total yards, and points scored through the 2020 season, much of which was quarterbacked by Daniel Jones. It was Jones’ first year in Jason Garrett’s system in an unusual offseason marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. The priority was simple - add talent to maximize your 2019 sixth-overall selection.

Supporters of Jones blamed Garrett’s offense, the circumstances of the season, and a lack of weapons for the failure of the offense last season. In my opinion, there were several faults and there isn’t one party to blame, but the lack of talent among the skilled position players after Saquon Barkley’s Week 2 injury was more than evident.

GM Dave Gettleman recognized this issue and attempted to correct it in both free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Gettleman knew that to evaluate Jones, the quarterback was going to need more help around him. The Giants added Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and John Ross to their receiver room, and Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, and Kyle Rudolph to their running back and tight end squads.

Garrett’s offenses typically function with heavier personnel than other NFL teams - this was the case last year where the Giants ranked second in the use of 13 personnel and eighth in 12 personnel. However, Garrett, when he had the players, wasn’t shy to run more 11 personnel. New York ranked 22nd with the use of its 11 personnel package.

The success rate for the Giants in 11 personnel was among some of the worst in the NFL. Their successful play rate, according to Sharpfootball.com, was 40 percent through the air and 48 percent on the ground. The only teams worse than the Giants throwing out of 11 personnel were the Jets and Eagles. That should improve with the additions made this offseason.

Key losses: Golden Tate
Key additions: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross

Why the Giants could be better

Easy answer - they added a prototype “X” receiver for Garrett’s offense, brought in a pure deep threat who was a top 10 selection in 2017, and invested a first-round draft pick in the position. If the position group isn’t better the Giants are in a whole lot of trouble.

Garrett has always had players like Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, or Dez Bryant fill a significant role as the “X” receiver who is on the line of scrimmage, and/or aligned on the backside of 3x1 sets. Golladay can execute this role well, and his playstyle, frame, and ability to climb the ladder and high point the ball will serve the Giants well in 2021.

Golladay is coming off an injury-riddled season with the Lions. He quickly established a rapport off the field, and in workouts, with third-year quarterback Daniel Jones. He has only had one 70 catch season and has seen more than 100 targets twice in his career. The passing game should move through Golladay this season, and his presence should allow for easier coverage on the opposite side for Darius Slayton, a more open middle of the field for Sterling Shepard, and, hopefully, fewer bodies in the box to fill quickly against a healthy Saquon Barkley.

The Giants needed to invest big money into Golladay, but they had to improve the position. GolladayHe signed a four-year, $72 million deal, with an extra $4 million in incentives, and $40 million guaranteed. He will be 28 in November and is now one of the highest-paid receivers in the league. His skills mesh well with Daniel Jones’ ability to throw a solid deep pass in single coverage.

Golladay was only one of the additions to get excited about; the other is rookie Kadarius Toney, who the Giants selected in the first round. Toney has only one full year starting as a receiver in a spread Dan Mullen offense at UF, but he brings several things to the table for New York.

Toney has contact balance, vision, and the ability to take handoffs effectively. He knows how to operate near the line of scrimmage, his route running is deceptive, and he’s incredibly quick. It will be a challenge for Garrett to find snaps for all the weapons the Giants now possess.

I expect Toney to be integrated slowly into the offense, used on special teams early, and then also have trick plays designed for him - something Garrett designed for Shepard, Tate, and Engram quite often in 2020. He can be more than a distraction, but Garrett will have to be a bit creative with his personnel because of the competent players at wide receiver on the Giants roster.

Ross may not make the roster, but he deserves to be mentioned. He will be battling with Dante Pettis for a roster spot behind Golladay, Toney, Shepard, Slayton, and possibly C.J. Board or David Sills (one of the last two should make it as a gunner). Ross can just take the top off the defense; his rare speed is difficult to find even in the NFL, so I understand the intrigue. He has just been wildly disappointing since entering the league.

Why the Giants are worse

The only way this wide receiver group is worse than the 2020 group is if injuries plague the Giants. If both Golladay and Toney get injured, then the Giants’ investments are for not - that’s a problem for many obvious reasons. Both Golladay and Toney had issues with injuries in their past, so hopefully, those weren’t the canaries in the coal mine.

The loss of Tate means very little to this team. He was openly disgruntled about his role and his body language was really poor; always throwing his hands up in the air in disapproval. It was time for him to be shown the door. Tate is a smart, tough, player who was declining athletically. His 424 offensive snaps will be divided between several Giants.

It is difficult to mount an intelligible argument on how the Giants receiving corps is worse now after these acquisitions. They have built this roster around Jones. If the offensive line holds up, he should have every chance to succeed.

Final Thoughts

Golladay, Toney, and Ross add several different elements to this offense, addressing one of last season’s major issues. Now, let’s see if Jones can start earning wins.