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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The New York Giants’ offensive trotted onto the field for the first game of 11-on-11 practice at the mandatory minicamp last week. Flanking quarterback Daniel Jones was wide receiver CJ Board and David Sills V. Richie James was on the field.
Running back Saquon Barkley was in the backfield, but the expected top three receivers – Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay (unspecified injuries) and Sterling Shepard (Achilles recovery) – were in red contactless jerseys. And receiver Darius Slayton, who was working on the second-team attack, dropped a potentially long touchdown for the second time in two weeks while his spring fights continued.
The more things change for the Giants, who have a new head coach (Brian Daboll) and general manager (Joe Schoen), the more they stay the same. Every Giants starter on the offensive skill positions missed at least two games due to an injury last season, and this spring has not provided much assurance that things will change.
“You would love that everyone was out here, especially the talented guys to get reps with the quarterback, but that doesn’t usually happen in most places,” Daboll said. “There’s always some guy who’s messy or you give them a day off. We get plenty in the summer here.”
Toney, Golladay and Shepard were present and did what they could during most of the volunteer offseason program. They were able to learn a lot from the offense even though they did not run any routes for Jones.
“They’ve thrown with Daniel before. They’ve done a good job,” Daboll said. “Again, you can learn different ways, and we’re just teaching them how we came to teach them right now.”
Veterans who lack spring repetitions can in many cases be brushed off, but all three of New York’s three best recipients fit the damaged label.
Toney, selected as No. 20 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, handled various injuries as a rookie – hind thigh, ankle, quad and oblique among them. He also missed time due to positive COVID-19 tests and ill-fitting shoes. He appeared in 10 games and finished with 39 catches and no touchdowns.
Golladay, who signed a $ 72 million four-year deal last season, was also hampered by injuries (hip, buttocks and knees) that limited him to 37 receptions and no touchdowns last year. He has played 19 games over the last two seasons, a total of 57 catches for 859 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Shepard, who cracked his left Achilles at the end of last season, has played in 16 games once in the last five years.
Daboll has said on several occasions that he expects all three to be ready for training camp next month, and Golladay participated in some exercises during the minicamp, so there is optimism for a group that had a hard time last season.
“There’s a time to be smart, and there’s a time to make sure you push things through the best you can. You have to balance them,” Daboll said. “You push guys through training camp – maybe it’s exactly the same thing and they do not wear a red shirt … All we try to do is try to be as healthy as we can be when they train comes here.”
Jones had his ups and downs at OTAs and minicamp, while often being surrounded by reserves. If it sounds familiar, it should. It continues a tendency for Jones to deal with difficult circumstances, something the Giants have desperately tried to stop.
Part of the recipient’s contingency plan is rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, who was drafted in the second round this year. He had a strong spring that included a diving grip on a deep pass from Jones over cornerback Aaron Robinson at the back of the end zone during the OTAs.
“He’s fast, he’s fast, he’s explosive,” Slayton said of the rookie. “I would say he is as advertised.”
In the final year of his rookie contract, Slayton had 26 catches last season and led New York’s wide receivers with two touchdown receptions. He ran curiously for people like Sills and Travis Toivonen at times in the spring. It does not bode well for his future under the new regime.
But Barkley, another playmaker who had a disappointing 2021 season affected by injuries (torn ACL in his right knee), was perhaps the biggest standout of the spring. It looks like he could be used more as a receiver in the scheme, run by Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
Barkley was used all over the field – wide out, in the gap, in motion, out of the backfield – through OTAs and minicamp.
“It’s helpful, not just for myself, but to open up to other things for the offense,” he said. “[I] has not really moved like that since college. Just kind of went back and saw a bit of my college stuff to see things that I was able to do there and change. “
The overall number 2 from 2018 looks healthy and explosive after missing at least three games in each of the last three seasons.
“He’s fuckin ‘huge. He’s over here squatting, what linemen squatting, and one day he shouted about [Cleveland Browns running back] Nick Chubb puts up his squat video. He says, ‘I have to beat it [675 pounds]”said center Jon Feliciano about Barkley.” It’s good to see … that he has the motivation, that he does not remain stagnant and is a great player as he is. “
If spring heralds something for the upcoming season, it could be a big one for Barkley. The future is more cloudy for the Giants’ other playmakers.