Brian Daboll gave wide receiver Kadarius Toney only seven snaps in Sunday’s season-opening win over the Titans, even though the coach said Toney is healthy.
Toney played two offensive snaps the entire first half and didn’t see his first touch until the fourth quarter. He touched the ball twice all game, rushing twice for 23 yards.
And he seemed to struggle with his lack of playing time, understandably. At one point, Toney stewed alone on the defensive bench – on the opposite end of the sideline from the rest of the offense – before rejoining the group.
GM Joe Schoen and Daboll have postured publicly in defense of Toney ever since their trade calls on him were made public in the spring. But it’s hard to view his lack of playing time as anything other than a lack of confidence in the player’s reliability.
“We’ll see,” Daboll said of getting Toney more involved. “We’ll do whatever we think we gotta do for that week. We’ve got a bunch of receivers active. We’ll figure out ways to get him in the game. Maybe it’s less, maybe it’s more. Each week’s different. Who’s inactive might be different. It depends on everything leading up to it, and that’s why we make those decisions.”
Toney’s lack of usage was glaring. So was Daboll’s reference to future inactive lists.
Toney, last year’s first-round pick, played fewer snaps than rookie Wan’Dale Robinson (nine), who left the game for good with a right knee injury in the second quarter. Toney’s playing time didn’t increase after Robinson was ruled out.
Daboll said Monday that it wasn’t due to a lack of faith in Toney’s knowledge of the playbook. But he made clear “everybody’s gotta earn their role.”
“We had more than just seven plays for him but they weren’t called, and we’ll see what happens this week,” Daboll said. “The guys that were out there, we had confidence in. We have confidence in Kadarius. Our receiver position is a competitive situation and it will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
“Relative to inactives or play time or amount of plays, everybody’s gotta earn their role,” the coach said. “One week it might be a whole game, one game it might be less. But Kadarius has done a good job of learning our stuff. I have no concerns about him learning our information.”
Receivers Kenny Golladay (46 snaps), Sterling Shepard (43) and Richie James (42) played most, followed by David Sills (27), Robinson and Toney. Darius Slayton was inactive.
It wasn’t a complete surprise Toney wasn’t heavily involved. In practice during the week, Toney was catching passes from backup QB Tyrod Taylor – not Daniel Jones – as the last ‘Z’ receiver running routes during individual periods.
Still, in Toney’s defense, it would be understandable if he saw inconsistencies in how he was treated this summer compared to how little he played Sunday.
No one sees what goes on behind the scenes, but on the field, the Giants seemingly enabled Toney’s habits and gave him the freedom to be himself in camp.
They seemed to put him through minimal strenuous work. They carved out a practice period to have a low-impact catch of the football with Toney and Kenny Golladay. They had individual coaches personally review play calls with them.
They gave Toney plenty of days off from team periods (first coming off an offseason knee procedure, then after a mid-camp hamstring injury). They let him kneel on the ground or take his helmet off often when others were standing and at the ready.
Again, no one knows what was said to Toney behind closed doors as camp progressed. His talkback to offensive coordinator Mike Kafka during a drill in late August had to have elicited some feedback.
But it’s clear Schoen and Daboll are much more discerning and bottom-line in their decision-making than their public personas portray them to be. That’s a good thing, assuming the GM and coach are consistent and transparent in how they operate.
It’s encouraging at least, frankly, that they didn’t play Toney 40 snaps after giving Slayton a pay cut and making him inactive – given the differences in player work ethics and track records.
Trust and playing time need to be earned.
But again, in Toney’s defense, after Daboll played the receiver’s rap songs and acted like everything was great this summer, it might not have been easy to watch from the sideline Sunday.
Toney didn’t interview after the game, but he is expected to speak early this week.
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“I don’t know exactly how many snaps it was, but we had personnel packs,” Daboll said of Toney. “Seven, there you go. We had personnel groups for all our receivers. We’ll do that for every game. Maybe it’s more, maybe it’s less. It just depends on what we’re calling, what we see.
“He’s in plenty of them. We didn’t get to some of them. But I thought the plays he was in on, he did his job. Made a good decision on the one play down there at the end of the drive to take care of the football and get yards.”
Robinson, the Giants’ second-round pick out of Kentucky, had his right knee bent awkwardly on his first NFL catch. He made a 5-yard reception on third down to convert for a first but got twisted down on a hit by Titans safety Amani Hooker.
Daboll said Robinson had told him “I just landed funny.” The coach did not project confidence in Monday’s Zoom interview. “Day to day,” he said twice. Daboll wouldn’t say anything optimistic when asked if the Giants had avoided something long-term … Corner/gunner Nick McCloud (hamstring) already left the game in the second half.
The Giants’ 238 rushing yards were their highest total since they ran for 260 against Washington on Dec. 31, 2017. Barkley finished with 164 rushing yards on 18 carries for a 9.1-yard average.
Daboll won the first challenge of his career in the fourth quarter. Officials ruled Tennessee tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo was not down by contact on a 19-yard reception. Daboll correctly thought he was and after review, the gain was reduced to 11 yards.
The Giants’ inactive players were OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee), OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf), S Dane Belton (clavicle), Slayton, RB Antonio Williams, CB Justin Layne and OL Tyre Phillips.