Kadarius Toney is an exciting Giants weapon, but don't expect too much too soon

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Kadarius Toney catches ball Giants rookie minicamp
Kadarius Toney catches ball Giants rookie minicamp

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Kadarius Toney was determined to show the Giants they made the right choice when they drafted him in the first round, and nothing was going to stop him – not the fact that the Giants’ weekend rookie camp consists of only light, individual drills, and certainly not the fact that his shoes were the wrong size.

That last part was a bit of a problem at his first NFL practice, which is why he spent so much of it on the sidelines with the equipment staff and trainers. But at one point, he became “Shoeless” Kadarius, running through drills with one cleat and one bare foot.

“I do whatever it takes, you know what I’m saying?” Toney said. “That’s just me. That’s that dog mentality.”

Presumably the Giants will find him the right-sized cleats by his second practice on Saturday, and that won’t be an issue that lingers into training camp or the season. What may be an issue, though, is that Toney will have to continue doing whatever is necessary to make the most of his opportunities.

Because those opportunities likely won’t be as frequent as he probably thinks.

This is the strange thing about this Giants team, which has been so offensively challenged for so long. They are loaded on offense in 2021, at least on paper, with more weapons than they’ve had in ages. They bought a No. 1 receiver in Kenny Golladay during free agency to add to a group that already included Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, and they also took a flier on the speedy John Ross. They still have Pro Bowl tight end Evan Engram and backed him up with sure-handed veteran Kyle Rudolph.

And oh, by the way, they’re getting a healthy Saquon Barkley back, too.

That makes the explosive, potentially dangerous Toney more of a luxury than a need. He’s valuable, but he’s also part of a surprising excess of offensive firepower. He probably won’t be a starter even in three-receiver sets. And barring injury, it’s hard to imagine him being more than the fifth option in the passing attack, at best – which is certainly odd for a first-round pick.

So while Toney was the fourth receiver taken in the draft, behind the trio of soon-to-be-stars in Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals), Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins) and DeVonta Smith (Eagles), he may turn out to be more of a gadget in the Giants’ offense. It may be a lot to expect him to even touch the ball more than 30 times this year.

That’s not a bad thing, though, because if the Giants are right he can do a lot of damage with those limited touches. He has the ability to line up in the slot, on the outside, or even in the backfield. He can catch passes or even take a handoff and run a sweep. He’s got 4.39 speed and as much shiftiness as any receiver in the Class of 2021.

The Giants are counting on his abilities to break tackles and make big plays, even if it’s only one or two times per game.

One other reason why this pick could turn out to be so good: The Giants’ current receiving corps isn’t exactly a picture of health. Shepard has been injury prone, Golladay missed half of last season with the Lions, Ross’ career has nearly been ruined by injuries and even Slayton was banged up last year. It’s absolutely possible that Toney could be pressed into a larger duty sooner than anyone thinks.

But first things first. The Giants are still far from seeing exactly what Toney can do for them. As Giants coach Joe Judge said, “Really, this is an orientation weekend. This isn't a competition weekend. This is just get the guys out there moving on the grass, take a look at them and get a better idea where they are physically.”

It’s also about the little things: Finding their lockers, learning the layout of the building, and getting used to the tempo and structure of an NFL practice.

And for some of them, it’s also about finding the right shoes.