‘Lab Creation’ Showing Giants What They’re Missing

Kadarius Toney

Getty The Giants are seeing what they're missing after letting a "lab creation" get away.

Joe Schoen and the New York Giants didn’t expect to miss a former first-round pick the general manager traded for peanuts. The Giants thought they’d gotten a problem player off of their books and boosted draft capital for 2023.

The reality is playing out a little differently though, with a playmaker described as a “lab creation” showing the Giants exactly what they’re missing. He’s making an instant impact on a new team and already has one All-Pro questioning what the Giants were thinking dealing away a premium talent for so little.

Giants Getting Glimpse of What Might’ve Been

Kadarius Toney hasn’t wasted any time making himself a factor for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants’ top pick in 2021 fetched just a compensatory third-round selection and a sixth-round choice.

It’s very early days, but the Chiefs already look like the winners of this deal. Toney’s played just two games for the Chiefs, but Heavy Sports NFL insider Matt Lombardo has dubbed the wideout “Andy Reid’s latest lab creation.”

That’s an apt term for a versatile pass-catcher one AFC South scouting director told Lombardo is “a better version of Mecole Hardman. He’s better as a runner after the catch. He’s stronger. Toney can also do a lot of screens and reverses, the same way they used Tyreek Hill.”

That’s lofty praise, but the Chiefs and head coach Reid are already making full use of Toney’s range of skills in a way the Giants rarely did. The process began with looking Toney’s way more often during Week 10’s 27-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Toney was the third-most active receiver on the team, according to Establish The Run co-founder Adam Levitan:

Contrast those numbers with Toney’s final two games as a Giant. He ran the ball twice against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, but wasn’t targeted once in the passing game, per Pro Football Reference. The same source noted how the Giants targeted Toney a mere three times against the Carolina Panthers a week later, but didn’t hand off to him once.

Fast forward to his second game with the Chiefs, and the near split between running and catching among Toney’s touches showed Reid’s willingness to get KC’s new toy involved any way possible. The approach yielded four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, to go with 33 yards on the ground from a pair of rushing attempts.

Keeping Toney in motion was a key ploy in how the Chiefs unleashed “a difference-maker” in both phases of the offense, according to NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger:

There is no less-is-more strategy for getting the best out of Toney. The Chiefs already know it, but the Giants never learned the lesson.

Giants Moved on Before Trade

Chiefs’ All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce is baffled about why the Giants traded Toney. He told his brother, Philadelphia Eagles’ Pro-Bowl center Jason Kelce on the New Heights podcast he can’t fathom how Toney “got out of that building. I just don’t get it. I don’t get it one bit. I don’t even want to understand it. I don’t even want to know what happened over there.”

Kelce might not be able to reason why, but there’s actually little mystery behind Schoen’s decision to jettison Toney. This Giants regime was moving on from the former 20th-overall pick long before the deal was struck.

That much was obvious by the way head coach Brian Daboll and his staff all but ignored Toney’s dual-threat talents. The pattern was clear when the Giants used new wide receiver Richie James against the Titans on a run Toney would be expected to execute, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan:

James is a versatile returner/receiver type in the mold of Toney, and so is rookie Wan’Dale Robinson. Signing James from the San Francisco 49ers in free agency and using a second-round pick to draft Robinson showed Schoen and Daboll were already thinking of alternatives to Toney.

There were ample reasons for wanting to ditch Toney, according to Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports: “it’s clear the Giants had grown tired of everything from Toney’s attitude to his work ethic to his never-ending injuries. They seemed to know he was a bad fit for their new culture from the start.”

Yet, as Vacchiano also noted, a healthy Toney proved he can be an electric, dynamic, game-changing receiver.” That’s something still missing from the Giants’ roster. A pedestrian passing game is summed up by Darius Slayton leading the team with just 327 yards and two touchdowns from a mere 19 catches.

Dumping somebody with Toney’s potential in favor of 2019 fifth-rounder Slayton still rates as a surprise. Especially since Daboll and his staff have already made successful reclamation projects out of more than one key player, including quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

It’s just a shame there was no room for Toney on the reclamation trail. The more he thrives for the Chiefs, the more the Giants are likely to rue giving up so soon on their first-round investment.

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