- September 9, 2021
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New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney was drafted in Round 1 this year. Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media
When Tiki Barber thinks about Kadarius Toney, Odell Beckham comes to mind.
Well, at least right now.
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Allow Barber — the legendary former Giants running back — to explain.
The Giants just drafted Toney 20th overall — seven years after they picked another promising wide receiver, Beckham, at No. 12.
It’s been a rocky offseason for Toney, who has barely practiced — partly because he skipped voluntary spring workouts, partly because he caught COVID-19, and partly because he spent much of training camp dealing with an undisclosed injury.
Now, with Sunday’s season opener against the Broncos looming, it’s unclear when Toney will actually play — and what sort of role he might have, when he does get on the field. Bottom line: It’s hard to imagine Toney contributing a lot immediately this season, right?
“I know, but we thought this about Odell, too,” Barber told NJ Advance Media.
Barber noted that a hamstring injury sidelined Beckham for most of training camp in 2014, when he also missed the first four games. When he finally debuted, he had modest numbers in his first three games — 44, 28, and 34 yards, with one, zero, and two touchdowns.
“It was like: ‘All right, this Odell pick, what’s this going to turn into?’” Barber said. “And then he turned out to be pretty damn great.”
In the final nine games of Beckham’s rookie season, he had nine touchdowns and averaged 133 yards per game. He became a sensation. The Giants eventually tired of his histrionics and traded him to the Browns after the 2018 season. But he was indeed pretty great, as Barber said, after that slow start to his rookie season.
None of this means Toney will mimic Beckham’s rookie season. Yet Barber thinks it’s all worth considering, as Giants fans wring their hands over Toney.
Barber spoke to NJ Advance Media last week at a memorial golf event held to benefit late Giants coach Jim Fassel’s foundation. Fassel, who coached the Giants from 1997-2003, died in June at 71. His foundation, formed in late 2001, assists families impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I like Kadarius Toney as a skill position player because he’s so versatile,” Barber said. “But one of the reasons why I disliked rookies when I was a player is because it takes so long for them to get it. A lot of rookies, it takes some time for them to understand that it’s a business and there are grown men who are relying on you to do your job and be available.”
Barber said the college-to-NFL transition is especially hard for wide receivers, because the position is so much simpler at the collegiate level.
“You’ve got a go route, and it’s: ‘All right, I’m going to beat that guy, and I know the ball is going to get there, and I’m going to make a play,’” Barber said. “It’s basically simple.”
In the NFL, a receiver’s route can change pre-snap, depending on the defensive coverage. Which is why it’s important for a young receiver like Toney to get extensive training camp reps with his quarterback. And that did not happen for Toney and Daniel Jones.
“What happens is, you miss camp or you miss time, and you get into a game situation and you’re messing up,” Barber said. “It’s so much more complex. Usually you see in Year 2 for wide receivers that are going to make it, they explode. But Giants fans don’t feel like waiting.”
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They sure don’t. And they’re particularly impatient with this offense — and its line.
“I’m a fan, so I have to keep faith, but without a great offensive line, it gets really hard to win in the NFL,” Barber said. “So that’s the key.”
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman promised to fix the offensive line when he was hired in 2018. He has not done it yet.
“That’s the frustrating thing,” Barber said. “That’s ultimately how you get judged: How do you protect the skill position players? Those guys up front are a big part of that. There’s so much hope — as opposed to evidence — with the offense. It’s a limbo that’s kind of uncomfortable going into this season.”
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