Kadarius Toney's career with Giants begins with a lot of noise, little production

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It may be early in New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney's career, but the head-scratching incidents outnumber the catches so far.

That is not ideal for a first-round pick whose maiden practice ended prematurely because he was wearing cleats that were the wrong size. The drama hasn’t dissipated since, and the production hasn't pushed the nonsense to the background.

The No. 20 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft has two catches for minus-2 yards in his first two professional games. He did not catch a pass in the Giants' 30-29 loss in Week 2 against the Washington Football Team during 17 offensive snaps, which was an increase from the five he logged in the opener.

"Right now, we've got a lot of guys making a lot of plays and sometimes it's just the way things are dictated by coverage or look," Giants coach Joe Judge said after Sunday's loss. "Sometimes that goes ahead and dictates where the ball is going to. He's obviously a part of our team. We're looking to involve him as much as possible and that'll continue growing as we go forward."

The offense looked better against Washington, but the Giants (0-2) are going to need Toney's playmaking beginning Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Fox) to develop into the offense they truly want to become. His speed and explosiveness are unique to their wide receiver room.

"Twitchy" is the word quarterback Daniel Jones has used to describe his first-year receiver. This is evident watching Toney navigate the practice field. He stops and starts with ease.

"Gifted athlete, [has] exceptional ball skills, [a] quick twitch, great burst," was safety Jabrill Peppers' scouting report from training camp.

The plan from the jump has been for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and the Giants to use Toney in a variety of ways, whether it be as a receiver, on gadget plays or in the backfield. His first touch came on a forward pitch from jet motion.

But as Judge said recently, it's not necessarily about volume with Toney. It's more about what he does with the touches he gets. It seems a matter of time before the opportunities come.

"Just keep being himself, learning the league and when the ball comes your way, make a play. That's it," Judge said. "I explained the other day on the sideline to him, I talked to him about it. I said, 'Look, there's times in the game where it's natural to become frustrated because you want to make an impact for your team.'

"The one thing I'd say for this guy is he works hard every day. He's doing a lot of things to put himself in a better position ... to be an impact player in this league."

Toney is clearly frustrated -- that Judge felt the need to talk with him on the sideline during the game is proof. Afterward, Toney posted an Instagram story with a quote -- "I don't be mad s--- just be lame to me fr" -- that many attributed to his lack of playing time. He then answered the ensuing questions by posting another story that called the media "clowns."

Judge said Monday that Toney's original post had nothing to do with the Giants or football. The coach talked about warning his players about putting anything on social media that needed to be explained, clarified or defended.

Toney wasn't present during Monday's media availability, but the posts have amplified the attention on him after doing little on the field to offset the potential distraction. It shows Toney is paying attention to the outside noise and critics, which was also apparent when he was asked before the season if there was any reason he would not play in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos.

"No, unless you want to go make one up," Toney said.

This would all be peripheral noise if he was catching passes and making plays. But nobody has seen that yet.

He had the cleat fiasco during rookie minicamp in May, missed workouts during organized team activities in June because his contract wasn't signed and left the team later in June during mandatory minicamp to handle a family matter. He also tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of training camp and later in camp was shelved by a hamstring injury.

That Toney didn't practice much from the day he was drafted until just two weeks before the season made a slow start likely, but nobody predicted it would be this rocky.

Week 2 produced zero touches and some drama. Week 3, with 10 days to prepare against Atlanta? The hope has to be Toney produces plays that can bring eyeballs back to the field.