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Giants’ WR competition: Did Brian Daboll send message to Kenny Golladay, others?

Collin Johnson, David Sills, Alex Bachman are pushing for roster spots

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants
David Sills
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When he was asked about his wide receiver depth chart recently, New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll issued what can only be interpreted as a loud and clear message to some of the higher-profile receivers on the roster.

“I would just say the five best or six best players or seven best, however many we’re going to keep. The guys that have been out there and producing, Collin Johnson, David Sills, they’ve stepped their game up. And they’re right in the mix, not just to make a team but to play,” Daboll said. “So again, like I said, everybody’s got to earn their job, earn their role, do a good job of the things they need to do, and make the most of their opportunities when they get them.”

While that may have partially been intended to compliment the excellent summer work being turned in by Johnson and Sills, it certainly also had to be intended to get the attention of a few other players.

  • Like Kenny Golladay, who was unproductive in 2021 and has only looked like a dominant player on rare occasions this summer.
  • Like Kadarius Toney, who has now spent more time on the sidelines this training/camp preseason than he has on the practice field.
  • Like Sterling Shepard, who looked good running routes on a side field last week, but remains on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as of this writing as he rehabs a torn Achilles.

The message to Golladay? Your four-year, $72 million contract — which the previous regime gave you — isn’t going to get you on the field. Not when Johnson and Sills are making the plays your contract, and your history, says you should make.

To Toney? Your status as a 2021 first-round pick doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get on the practice field.

To Shepard? We have options if you can’t get on the field and show us that you will be ready to contribute when the season opens.

A new regime, with a first-year head coach in Daboll and a first-year GM in Joe Schoen, has the ability — you might even say the luxury — of this approach.

They have no ties to Golladay, Shepard, Toney, Darius Slayton or any of the players they did not bring to the organization.

Their legacies, their reputations as evaluators, their jobs are not tied to these players. These types of players, at wide receiver and elsewhere, will get on the field and perform. Or, they won’t. And if they don’t, they’ll be replaced.

Let’s look at some of the guys pushing for roster spots and playing time.

David Sills

It was noteworthy that Sills’ 29 snaps came in the first half, primarily with the first-team offense. All five of his catches came on passes from Daniel Jones.

Sills is a guy who has been on the periphery of the Giants’ roster for years now. He appeared poised to make the team in 2020, but a fractured foot near the end of preseason ended his season. He spent most of last season the practice squad, appearing in four games and catching two passes for 17 yards.

Annually, Sills is a training camp/preseason star. That has yet to translate to regular-season success.

Sills is a player who has cultivated a great relationship with Jones, going wherever he needs to go in the offseason to train with Jones as often as possible. It’s a relationship that built an on-field comfort level between the two that was obvious on Sunday night.

“We have been able to build a good connection over the last couple years. I think it’s been paying off out there in practice and in the game the other day. He kind of knows where I’m going to be, I know where the ball is going to be. So, it’s something that I had put a lot of time in to get to this point,” Sill said. “Just looking to get better and compete. Dabs says that’s what he wants, are guys that are going to compete every day.”

Sills doesn’t offer much in terms of special teams value, something that obviously hurt him in the eyes of the previous coaching staff. You have to wonder, though, if this coaching staff will look at that Jones-Sills relationship and lean into it.

After all, isn’t making the quarterback comfortable a good idea?

Collin Johnson

At 6’6, 220 pounds Johnson is the biggest wide receiver on the roster. It seems like Johnson has done a couple of things to make himself noticed — in a positive way — during almost every practice attended by Big Blue View.

That has carried into preseason games. Johnson has 10 receptions for 123 yards, 12.3 yards per catch.

“At the end of the day, you’ve just got to focus on being the best you can be,” Johnson said recently. “I feel like if you do that, when the opportunity comes, you’ll make it. I have full confidence that when I get an opportunity, I’ll make the play because I know the way I work every day. I’m definitely going to keep working and keep taking advantage of my opportunities.”

Johnson has 29 receptions in 26 games over two seasons with the Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars. He is also a useful special teams player.

Alex Bachman

Like Sills, it feels like Bachman has been a Giant forever. Because, well, he sort of has.

Bachman has been a Giant, mostly a practice squad Giant, since the middle of the 2019 season. In all that time, he has been active for four games and has yet to catch a pass. He does have a rushing attempt, a punt return and four kickoff returns on his resume.

He also has a chip on his shoulder.

“It [his time with the Giants] hasn’t always been smooth,” Bachman said after his 11-catch, 122-yard, two-touchdown game on Sunday night. “We haven’t won a lot of games since I’ve been here. And I haven’t had a lot of opportunities. I’m just a guy who’s always kept his mouth closed and worked. And just hoped for an opportunity.”

Bachman’s path to the 53-man roster still seems difficult, but he increased his odds with his big second half on Sunday.

“All this guy’s done is the right thing since he’s been here. He’s showed up in the spring and worked as hard as he possibly could and got better each day,” Daboll said. “He’ll get more chances.”

Notes on other guys

I am writing this before the Giants announce their roster moves to get from 85 to 80 players by the Tuesday afternoon deadline. It would not be a surprise if Darius Slayton being waived or traded is one of those moves. Keeping him on the roster as the fifth or sixth receiver with a salary cap hit of $2.598 million is simply untenable.

Robert Foster appeared to have a chance to make the roster being suffering a hamstring injury last week that landed him on IR.

I think Richie James is going to emerge as the team’s top kick and punt returner, and I’m beginning to wonder if the emergence of some of the other guys makes C.J> Board expendable.

At this point, I don’t see Keelan Doss or Marcus Kemp making the team.