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Where was Kenny Golladay? Giants’ wide receiver situation is getting interesting

Getting the playing time you earn is the way it should be, but sometimes is not in the NFL

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants
David Sills makes a catch on Sunday.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Kenny Golladay’s two-snap day on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers raised a lot of eyebrows. It also spoke volumes about New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll.

The first-year head coach has talked, and talked, and talked, about wide receiver — and other spots, to be fair — being a constant competition with players needing to earn whatever playing time they get.

Golladay, with the four-year, $72 million contract and $21.15 million 2022 cap hit, played those two measly red zone snaps.

David Sills, with an $825,000 one-year salary and two career catches before Sunday, played 67 of 73 offensive snaps.

Richie James, an under-the-radar free agent signing who has been a backup receiver and kick returner throughout his career, played 31 snaps. His contract? One-year, $1.065 million.

Oh, by the way, Sills had three catches for 37 yards, two of which helped set up scores. James had five receptions for 51 yards, including two third-and-10 first-down catches on the Giants’ only touchdown drive. He has been a key player two weeks in a row.

Sterling Shepard played 64 snaps and Kadarius Toney, one week after playing only seven snaps, played 28. Even Darius Slayton, active only because Wan’Dale Robinson was sidelined with a knee injury, played four snaps. If you’re bad at math, that’s two more than Golladay.

“It’s a continual competition at receiver,” Daboll said after the game. “I’ve said it since when? I’m not being a jerk. I’ve said it since the middle of camp, right? It hasn’t changed. It’s going to be a continual competition.”

This week, Sills got his opportunity and made the most of it.

“Kadarius had opportunities today, and we’ll see what it is next week: Slayton, maybe it’s more KG. We’ll see where we go with that,” Daboll said. “But I think that position, we’re just going to keep on rolling guys and play the guys that week that we think would give us the best chance.”

The wide receiver is the most obvious area where Daboll and the Giants are making it obvious to players that performance, in the games and on the practice field, is what will lead to playing time.

There are others.

  • Rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott started on Sunday and played until he deserved not to.
  • Daboll was adamant last week that their play and their preparation had earned both Ben Bredeson and Josh Ezeudu the right to play, and the duo split left guard duties for the second straight week. Thing was, Bredeson was better on Sunday and his 56-17 advantage in snaps played reflected that.
  • Oshane Ximines is a player most — including yours truly — thought would not make the 53-man roster after three disappointing seasons. He not only made the team, but has been a critical player for the Giants’ defense the first two weeks.

This is the way the NFL should be, but too often is not.

Too often, the highest-paid or highest-drafted player plays regardless of performance. That is because the coach or general manager has gone out on a limb, staked some of his reputation on that player. The front office or coaching staff tries to prove it was right about the player, sometimes hanging on too long at the expense of doing what is right for the team.

Daboll and GM Joe Schoen are in a position where they don’t have that pressure. They did not sign Golladay. They did not draft Toney, or Daniel Jones. They weren’t part of Ximines’ disappointing first three seasons. They did not sign Blake Martinez as a free agent.

They are simply going by what they see, and playing the guys who do the best jobs.

We will see if that continues once this roster is filled with their players, and does not include so many guys from the previous regimes. For now, though, it certainly is refreshing.

Golladay’s post-game lack of availability

There was much made on social media Sunday night about Golladay not being available for post-game interviews. He was gone before media was allowed into the Giants’ locker room.

I won’t be critical of Golladay for that.

There is about a 20-minute window from the end of a game until when media is allowed into the locker room. If a media member attends Daboll’s post-game presser, as I did Sunday night, it can be a half-hour after the game before getting into the locker room.

By then, many players are gone. I’m not making anything of his “empty locker,” either. The lockers at MetLife Stadium are used only for games. Every locker is completely empty once a player leaves. The lockers at Quest Diagnostics, the practice facility, are the ones players use each day and where they leave belongings.

Daboll said that Golladay had been told during the week that Sills would start in his spot, and that he handled that news “like a pro.”

Does that mean he was happy about it? No. Does that mean he expected to play only two of 70 snaps? No.

I don’t know this for certain, but maybe, just maybe, Golladay knew that if he spoke he would say something that would be a distraction, that would dampen the good vibes of an unexpected 2-0 start.

Let’s just see how this plays out. Golladay certainly isn’t giving the Giants what Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge paid for. Maybe he never will. Maybe he isn’t the same receiver he was with the Detroit Lions.

Take Daboll at his word, as we should, Golladay has 15 games left this season to change that.