If there’s one positional group holding the New York Giants back this spring, it’s the wide receivers. We already know the Giants have the most expensive wide receiver room in the NFL (despite producing the fewest touchdowns of any WR room in the NFL last season), and the early returns for the 2022 season are not encouraging.
None of the Giants’ top three wide receivers — Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney or Sterling Shepard — has been a full participant for a single practice session (OTA or minicamp) this spring. All three have been wearing red non-contact jerseys, and that’s not going to change until at least the start of training camp in late June, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Shepard, the veteran leader of the group, was never expected to be healthy for these early offseason workouts. He tore his Achilles last December and just recently started jogging again, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports.
“I’m feeling good taking it day by day,” Shepard told Anderson. “Out at practice everyday taking mental reps, balls off of the jugs.”
While the Giants hope to get Shepard back at some point this summer, the injury situations surrounding Golladay and Toney aren’t as defined. The reason for Golladay’s red jersey is undisclosed, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic. The Giants have not given an official reason for Toney’s red jersey, either, but Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reported that the second-year pro underwent microscopic knee surgery this offseason and is still recovering.
“If Toney and Golladay are not on the field and ready to roll [for training camp], something is not right,” Schwartz wrote for the Post.
Here’s a visual of what practice looks like for Toney these days:
While the Giants certainly want to get their top trio healthy and back on the field as full participants, the most concerning practice reports may be the ones regarding a notable pass-catcher who is not injured.
Darius Slayton Keeps Dropping Passes
Former fifth-round draft pick Darius Slayton has led the Giants in receiving yards two of the past three seasons, but his future with the team seems to be trending in the wrong direction.
Dan Duggan of The Athletic recently noted Slayton’s dropped passes in his observations from Giants practice.
“Despite the top three receivers being sidelined by injury, Darius Slayton has not been entrenched as a starter this spring,” Duggan wrote. “That’s alarming considering Slayton is far and away the most accomplished receiver practicing. More alarming have been Slayton’s drops. He had another Tuesday when he failed to reel in a well-thrown deep ball from No. 2 quarterback Tyrod Taylor after getting open behind the defense.”
After dropping just two passes as a rookie, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Slayton has been charged with six drops each of the past two seasons. This drop against Washington on Thursday Night Football in Week 2 of last season was particularly painful.
Duggan reported that Slayton may be a “surprise player on the roster bubble,” due to his inconsistent performance and the $2.5 million they could save against the salary cap by cutting or trading him. Former San Francisco 49ers wideout Richie James was cited by Duggan as a player who could potentially step into Slayton’s role.
How Does This Affect Daniel Jones?
The player who is hurt the most by all of this is starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who is heading into a contract year after the Giants turned down his fifth-year option earlier this spring.
Jones recently addressed the fact that he’s working without his top targets.
“I think those guys have done a great job working in meetings,” Jones said of his injured wide receivers, via Big Blue View on Twitter. “I think they’ve built a good foundation of understanding this offense. Obviously, reps are extremely valuable…and we’ll get those. I think all of those guys have done a great job locking in and learning the offense.”
Ultimately, a strong passing offense is built on timing and chemistry between the quarterback and his receivers. That can only be developed when both parties are healthy and on the field practicing.