Making the playoffs without a truly dynamic wide receiver is a credit to the New York Giants, but things might be different if the team had hung on to Kadarius Toney.
Instead, the player Big Blue selected 20th overall in the 2021 NFL draft has found a new home where he feels “accepted.” Toney was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs for third and sixth-round picks back in October, and now he’s becoming a multi-purpose weapon for the AFC’s most dominant team.
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Toney couldn’t stay healthy for the Giants, but he’s loving life with the Chiefs. He expressed his joy after helping Kansas City beat the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 18, per Jesse Newell of The Kansas City Star: “It’s been a great experience to be here and be accepted by the team and the coaches and the staff and everybody believing in me.”
While those words needn’t be a shot at his former team, it’s telling the Giants didn’t want Toney, even while, as Newell put it, they were “starving for receiver production.” Newell also noted how “question marks about his injury history and ability to play through ailments.”
History looked like it was repeating itself when a hamstring strain sidelined Toney again soon after his arrival in Kansas City. Since then though, Toney has recovered and set about making a positive impact.
Toney was even more active last week, making two grabs for 18 yards and rushing three times for 26 and a touchdown. His numbers helped beat the Raiders and seal the No. 1 seed in the conference for the Chiefs.
This kind of impact is why First Things First’s Nick Wright believes the Chiefs got a bargain when they made the trade with the Giants:
In fairness, it made some sense for Giants’ general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll to trade Toney, since he was drafted by the previous regime. Yet, it’s equally possible all Toney needed was more faith from the new braintrust, faith that might have helped the Giants field a versatile and dynamic weapon in the postseason.
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It’s surprising Daboll and his offensive coordinator Mike Kafka couldn’t get more from Toney. After all, their schemes helped revive the talents of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.
Daboll and Kafka have also helped unheralded wide receivers Darius Slayton, Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins thrive. All three have contributed, but none are as gifted athletically, in as many ways, as Toney.
He showcased his flexibility against the Raiders, making an impact as both a pass-catcher and runner. Toney was the latter when he scored his touchdown:
The Chiefs haven’t been afraid to use Toney in the ground game, with his five carries in seven games already equalling all the rushing attempts he managed as a Giant. That production is a sign of the growing confidence the Chiefs have in Toney.
Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid expressed his faith in continuing to use Toney as a running back, per Newell: “He’s got the receiving part, and then you hand him the football, and he can do some damage. And he loves to play. That’s the thing you appreciate about him.”
Reid’s words also reveal how the Chiefs are comfortable trusting Toney to be tough enough to handle extra hits. Their trust was reflected by this handoff against the Raiders that sent Toney between the tackles:
It’s hard to imagine the Giants risking Toney on a play like this, but it’s easy to believe how much more effective Daboll’s offense would be if he had. While most members of the supporting cast around Jones have been functional, Toney would have offered something different.
Specifically, he has the ability to make people miss in tight spaces and still make positive gains. He offered an example of his flair for a highlight reel-worthy play on this catch and move against the Silver and Black:
Aside from Barkley, the Giants don’t have another skill player who can do these types of things. It’s what’s most likely to undermine Daboll’s team in the postseason.
If so, the decision to deal Toney on terms more favorable to the Chiefs will be one the Giants are sure to regret.