Giants rookie Kadarius Toney reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr, and that's a good thing

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Kadarius Toney three panel GIANTS TREATED ART 2021
Kadarius Toney three panel GIANTS TREATED ART 2021

He was dazzling with his moves and explosiveness. He was the most dominant player on the field. He was electric with the ball in his hands and completely transformed the Giants’ offense. Every time the Giants lined up, everyone’s eyes were on him.

And then he punctuated his remarkable breakout game with a stupid, selfish, mindless act that really ticked off his coach.

So yes, Kadarius Toney sure did look a lot like Odell Beckham, Jr. on Sunday afternoon in Dallas – the good and the bad. But that’s all good for the Giants – great, in fact -- because they’ve desperately needed a player like Beckham since the day they shipped him out of town.

Toney has a long way to go to reach Beckham’s status, either as a player, a spark plug, or a thorn in the franchise’s side, but he certainly showed his potential with his enormous game on Sunday.

It wasn’t just his 10 catches and 189 yards in the Giants’ 44-20 loss in Dallas. It was the way he took over the offense when the Giants needed it most. It was the way he made defenders look silly trying to stop him. It was the way each catch and move seemed to be more dazzling than the next.

"You just don’t see guys make people miss like that in the NFL very often," said Giants quarterback Mike Glennon. "There’s just not many guys who can do this, be that quick."

Beckham could do that in his younger and healthier days, back when the Giants loved him so much they gave him a monster, five-year, $90 million contract. He frustrated NFL defenses, made them change their plans to focus on stopping him. For years, he was the lone bright spot on some very bad teams.

The Giants haven’t had a player like that since then. Saquon Barkley was supposed to be similar, but he hasn’t been completely healthy since 2018, which was the only time he really looked like a dominant player. Sterling Shepard has been the Giants’ best receiver in the post-Beckham era, but even when he’s healthy he’s just not in that class. The Giants spent a lot of money on Kenny Golladay to make him their No. 1 receiver, but he’s a different type of receiver – more of a big, strong target.

Even he can’t do what Toney (and Beckham) can.

"He’s special," Glennon said. "You throw him a short pass and he takes it. You just don’t see that at the NFL level very often, making guys miss like that. He’s got a unique skill set that we are all finally seeing."

Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) catches the ball over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium.
Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) catches the ball over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium.

The speed, the moves, even the air of confidence is definitely very much like the Giants saw from Beckham. Of course, there was a darker side to The Beckham Experience – a side Toney flashed when he threw a punch at Cowboys safety Damontae Kazee and got ejected from the game.

That’s not as big of a concern for the Giants as some might think, though. Beckham’s behavior was far more out-of-control on the field, especially early in his career. In just his first two seasons, he was fined by the NFL four times for unsportsmanlike conduct and suspended once after his infamous run-in with then-Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.

And off the field, Beckham was a lightning rod, too. He never quite understood the attention his words and social media posts could get and the damage they could do. But the Giants tolerated almost all of that. They decided to grin and bear it because of how great a player he was.

So yes, when Toney went all WWE against the Cowboys, it certainly was Beckham-like, to an extent. Not only was it violent, but it showed a lack of awareness and concern for his team, since at that moment he was their best player. There’s more, too. Toney had a weird start to his NFL career -- from his first-day bout with the wrong shoe to his absence from spring drills to his mysterious summer injury and slide down the depth chart – that certainly created some unwanted non-football headlines. The Giants, always a conservative-minded franchise, would prefer their stars be born on the field.

But their tolerance level has always been high for players with unique abilities. And if Toney can continue to do what he did, pre-punch, on Sunday they will clearly be willing to tolerate a lot. They will hold out hope, at least publicly, that Toney will grow and mature and be more of their type of player.

"At the end of the day, he is still a rookie and he has a lot of learning to do," Golladay said. "He’s going to make mistakes."

The Giants understand that, just like they did with Beckham. He had those on-field fights. There was his on-again, off-again romance with the kicking net, or the time he celebrated a touchdown by lifting his leg to pee like a dog. There was that social media video of him in bed with a woman, a pizza and what looked to be drugs. There were plenty of headlines created by his mouth, too.

Yet the truth of the matter is that he might still be a Giant if he hadn’t committed one unforgivable sin – a television interview where he rolled Eli Manning under the bus. That was the catalyst for his unceremonious New York ending. And maybe that’s the greatest lesson that Toney can take from the Beckham Era -- that there are some lines that players just won’t be allowed to cross.

Toney is far from that line, though. In fact, he’s far from being Beckham at all. All he’s shown so far is one incredible game that finally displayed what made the Giants take him with the 20th overall pick in the draft. He is an undeveloped mound of talent and potential who has suddenly left everyone wondering how great he can be.

The upside is he could be Beckham. The downside is he could be Beckham. And if he keeps doing what he did on the field, from the catches to the punch, the comparisons will be inevitable.

The Giants should and likely will embrace it all for as long as they can, because their floundering franchise could use a player with that kind of fire, and their anemic offense is absolutely desperate for that kind of lightning bolt right now. They need the bright light of a football star, even if gets a little dark at times, too.