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Position preview: Will WRs help Giants’ passing game take a step forward in 2021?

How is the Giants’ receiving corps shaping up?

NFL: NY Giants Training Camp Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants sunk a lot of resources into their wide receiver corps for the 2021 season. Not only did they sign free agent Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million contract ($40 million guaranteed), but they invested their first-round draft pick in the position as well. The team selected Kadarius Toney at 20th overall to add versatility and some much-needed explosive athleticism to their passing attack.

In addition to their two big investments, the Giants kept slot receiver Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton to man their other two starting receiver positions. They also brought in a bevy of young wideouts to create competition and find potential gems.

But despite the cost, it was a necessary investment. The team fielded one of the worst offenses in the NFL last year and were largely held back by an anemic passing game.

Was it enough? How has their receiver position changed over the course of camp and the preseason?

Initial 90-man depth chart

WR: Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, David Sills V, C.J. Board, Austin Mack, Damion Willis

WR: Sterling Shepard, John Ross, Kadarius Toney, Dante Pettis, Alex Bachman, Matt Cole

53-man depth chart

WR: Kenny Golladay (hamstring), Collin Johnson
WR: Darius Slayton, C.J. Board
Slot: Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney (?)
Practice Squad: David Sills V, Dante Pettis, Matt Cole
IR: John Ross

Where do they stand now?

The Giants opened training camp with a crowded wide receiver room. We knew all along that there was no way they would — or even could — keep all 12 receivers on their roster. We also knew all along that there were maybe two roster spots actually in contention. The Giants are a team that wants to lead with their running game and lead the league in multiple tight end formations last year. That meant that it was unlikely they would keep more than six receivers on the active roster.

It was pretty much a given that free agent Kenny Golladay would man the “X” position, while Darius Slayton would line up at “Flanker” across from him. Sterling Shepard would be the starting slot receiver, while Kadarius Toney was something of a wild-card. We were never quite sure where the “offensive weapon” turned wide receiver would line up for the Giants, other than “potentially anywhere.”

The team ran multiple sweeps, screens, and end-arounds in pre-season and it’s likely those plays will go to Toney in the regular season.

That left just two spots open on our hypothetical six-man depth chart.

It isn’t a surprise that special teams ace C.J. Board took one of those spots. He was in a heated roster battle with David Sills V and Dante Pettis. Those three receivers were the Giants’ “Starters” for most of the preseason and each made a strong case for a roster spot. In the end, the Giants are a team with three special teams coordinators on their coaching staff, and Board’s ability to be a core special teams player was just too valuable. Not only can he help on offense, but his habit of pinning opposing offenses deep in their own territory on kick or punt coverage is massive, yet quiet, advantage for the Giants’ defense.

(It’s worth noting that camp star Sills remains on the practice squad.)

Former Jaguar Collin Johnson is the one we didn’t see coming. It was believed that David Sills’ size made him the natural back-up to Golladay as the “X” receiver. However, the Giants waived Sills and claimed the former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver. Johnson saw snaps with the Jags offense in 2020 and offers rare size at 6-foot-6, 222 pounds. That size could come in handy early in the year if Golladay is at all held back by the hamstring injury he suffered early in camp. The Giants invested heavily in bringing up their receiving corps in 2021, and finding a true “X” receiver was a big part of that.

We’ll see next week whether the Giants’ investments will pay off, not to mention finally get an idea of how they plan to employ Toney.