Leading into the July 27 opening of Giants training camp, The Post will analyze 11 position groups based on personnel, strengths, weaknesses and key depth chart battles. Today’s look-in: Wide receivers.
Get the feeling the Giants knew they had to upgrade this spot? They were as explosive in 2020 as water-logged fireworks and spent big money in free agency and huge currency in the NFL draft to import talent and address needs.
The aftereffects of these efforts provide the offense with greater size, speed, playmaking and versatility. There is something for everyone here, certainly enough to inject what was a pop-gun attack with some big-play threats.
Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Austin Mack, Dante Pettis, C.J. Board, Derrick Dillon, Alex Bachman, David Sills.
Golladay was the top target on the market and the Giants were aggressive in their pursuit, forking over a four-year, $72 million contract, with $40 million in guaranteed money. That is a whole lot of dough for a guy who played in only five games for the Lions last season, sidelined with a hip flexor injury.
In his four years in Detroit, the 6-foot-4 Golladay had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons and used his height and hands to total 21 touchdowns in 39 NFL starts. Is he a bona fide No. 1 target? He’s getting paid like one.
Shepard is a reliable slot pass-catcher who missed 10 games the past two years with assorted ailments. He averaged a career-low 9.9 yards per catch in 2020.
After a sterling rookie year, Slayton battled through some physical issues and regressed in year No. 2 — his touchdowns dropped from eight to three — but he has a nice speed/size blend and his career average of 15.2 yards per receptions indicates he is a down-the-field threat.
The Giants traded down from No. 11 in the first round — they coveted DeVonta Smith but the Eagles grabbed him — and selected Toney at No. 20 overall, convinced he is far more than a gadget player. He was one of the most elusive players in all of college football last season.
Ross, a former first-round pick of the Bengals, was a washout in Cincinnati but his blazing speed keeps him on NFL radars.
The 2020 group dropped 7.9 percent of what was deemed as “catchable’’ passes, the fifth-worst figure in the league. The receivers — tight ends are included in this — gained possession on only 41 percent of what were considered to be contested catches. Only six teams were worse than that. Golladay is a master at making contested catches and should be a major upgrade. The Giants receivers in 2020 also had the lowest yards after catch per completion in the league. Enter Toney. He was a dervish at Florida when it came to turning something small into something big.
When the offense goes with 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) there is going to be competition for those three spots, and this summer is where the depth chart gets arranged. Golladay will be on the field. The coaching staff needs to see Toney in a variety of places — he played in the slot a ton for the Gators — to determine how he and Shepard best complement each other. Jobs on the back end of the roster at this position will be hard to come by and there are several youngsters (Board and Mack, most notably) capable of sticking around.
Golladay is 27 and should be entering his prime. This is a huge spot for him, now the high-priced centerpiece of a passing attack. What does he do in the spotlight?
Toney likely needs time to acclimate to the NFL game. It remains to be seen how quick of a study he is and how rough around the edges he might be.
Shepard, 28, is in the playing-to-extend-his-future-with-the-Giants phase of his career.
What’s certain is quarterback Daniel Jones needs help from his teammates and also from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. The Giants were 25th in the league in using pre-snap motion and that has to change, if only to give Jones a better chance to survive back there. His average time of only 2.39 seconds of protection in the pocket in 2020 was 29th in the NFL and he was sacked 44 times — the fourth-highest total in the league. The good news is these new guys should be able to get open more quickly.
Next up: Defensive line.