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Can Kenny Golladay be a valuable piece of Giants’ 2022 offense?

In reality, he had better be

NFL: New York Giants Minicamp
Kenny Golladay during minicamp.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Can the New York Giants still get their money’s worth out of wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who was a massive disappointment in 2021? Let’s examine the question as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 213
Age: 28
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: 5
Contract: Year 2 of four-year, $72 million deal | Guaranteed at sign: $40 million ($28M fully guaranteed) | 2022 cap hit: $21.15 million (10.2 percent of Giants’ 2022 cap)

Career to date

A third-round pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2017 NFL Draft, Golladay had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018 and 2019. He caught 135 passes during that two-year space, 11 for touchdowns. He was also a healthy player, missing just one game in that span.

The 2020 season saw Golladay catch only 20 passes while playing in only five games. Despite that injury-plagued 2020 season, the Giants — desperate to add playmakers for quarterback Daniel Jones — signed him to a four-year, $72 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. That was the biggest 2021 free-agent deal given to a wide receiver.

Golladay didn’t come close to giving the Giants value for the exorbitant money they spent to acquire him.

Golladay played in 14 games. That, though, is misleading. He missed most of training camp and was slowed early in the season due to a hamstring injury. He missed three full games and half of a fourth with a midseason knee injury.

Not once during the season did Golladay resemble the game-changing downfield threat who had averaged 16.8 yards per catch and 5.25 touchdowns per season in four years with the Lions.

Some of the issues with Golladay had to do with misuse. They somehow managed to target their $72-million man only twice in the red zone all season, per FantasyPros. In 2019, when he caught 11 touchdown passes, he was targeted 13 times in the red zone, most of any NFL wide receiver. In addition to the regrettable play-calling, awful quarterback play with Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm over the season’s final few weeks was also problematic.

Golladay ended up with just 37 catches for 521 yards, no touchdowns, and a career-low average of 14.1 yards per catch. He was targeted only 76 times, after getting 119 and 116 targets during his last two healthy seasons with Detroit. Golladay’s catch percentage was a career-worst 48.7 percent.

Golladay said he spent a lot of time toward the end of last season reflecting on what had gone wrong and how to try and fix it.

“Once the season ended, I kind of flushed it,” he said. “Once we got a whole new coaching staff and everything, I definitely kind of just flushed it and focused on let’s start something new, turn the page now.”

2022 outlook

Will the 2022 version of Golladay resemble the injury-plagued, under-productive player who has only 859 yards of receiving production the past two seasons? Or, will be resemble the 2018-19 Golladay? That player caught 135 passes, gained 2,253 receiving yards, scored 16 touchdowns and was named to the 2019 Pro Bowl. That is the player the Giants hoped they were paying for.

Golladay’s spring, honestly, was not encouraging. He spent nearly all of it in red non-contact jersey with an undisclosed injury and did very little on-field work. During mandatory minicamp he caught a few passes during individual drills, but for the most part he spent the on-field portion of the spring standing and watching.

That’s not good for a player who said last season that one of his issues was that he simply did not get enough practice reps with Jones.

Still, things have to be better for Golladay in 2022. Don’t they? You have to believe that head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, coming from teams with highly successful offenses, will have a better idea of how to get the ball to Golladay than did Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and Freddie Kitchens.

Daboll tried to downplay missed spring practice time, but during the spring he did seem to indicate that reps between Jones and his receivers would be critical.

“I think the biggest thing that you can do as that skill type of pass catcher is really see the game through the quarterback’s eyes,” Daboll said. “We have a lot of different route adjustments and things like that, and that’s going to be an important part for those players to get on the same page with the quarterbacks and vice versa. That’s the only way the pass game works.”

Wide receivers coach Mike Groh tried to downplay the missed practice time for both Golladay and Kadarius Toney.

“Feel really good about the progress that they’ve made,” Groh said last month. “I think they’ll be ready to go when we need ‘em. We don’t play for four and a half months. I think there’s plenty of time to get caught up.”

The Giants appear to be building an offense that will feature a lot of movement, RPOs, a lot of horizontal throws to get the ball quickly to playmakers. There will be times, though, when the ball needs to go farther down the field. When receivers need to make catches in contested situations. When they are in the red zone and need to get the ball to their bigger-bodied receivers.

Maybe Golladay won’t be Stefon Diggs. Maybe he won’t surpass 1,000 receiving yards. The Giants, though, need Golladay to be a valuable, productive part of their offense.

We will see if he can stay healthy enough, and the Daboll/Kafka combo can figure out how to get him the ball enough, to make him a player who at least resembles one worth what the Giants are paying him.