The New York Giants kick off their season at 4:25 pm on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. The wait for the regular season is finally over as the 2021 NFL season kicks off Thursday night in Tampa Bay. The Giants are hoping to get off to a strong start after having a fantastic offseason that saw them drastically improve their roster. One of the team’s most exciting acquisitions was first-round wide receiver, Kadarius Toney.
It was a wild summer for Kadarius Toney unlike any other. The rookie barely practiced with the team and did not participate in the preseason. Toney had a fight with COVID-19 and a mysterious injury that held him out of practice for a while. Despite this, Kadarius is expected to play on Sunday.
The Giants are excited to see their rookie wide receiver line up with the rest of their offense. However, the area of the game where Toney might make the biggest instant impact is on special teams.
Kadarius Toney as the punt returner
The New York Giants would like to ramp Kadarius Toney up to game speed. This is a difficult task, though, as the rookie missed all of the preseason, losing his opportunity to learn the game’s speed. One way for the Giants to get Toney involved early is through special teams.
Initially, Kadarius might struggle while going up against NFL cornerbacks. The competition is bigger, stronger, and faster in the pros than in college, and one criticism of Toney’s game coming out of school was his inability to beat bigger opponents. But as the Giants try to get the ball in Toney’s hands and give him a chance to create an explosive play, placing him as the team’s punt returner is a fantastic way to get the rookie involved.
On the Giants’ unofficial depth chart, Jabrill Peppers is listed as the starting punt returner. Adoree’ Jackson is second string and Kadarius Toney is third string. Jackson, though, has been dealing with an injury for the last few weeks. Peppers is also a valuable player that typically plays over 90% of snaps for the defense. This could give Kadarius Toney an avenue onto the field.
On 177 touches in his collegiate career at UF, Kadarius Toney forced an insane 64 missed tackles (PFF). Toney was the best tackle-breaking wide receiver in this year’s NFL draft. Toney forced a missed tackle on 35% of touches since 2018, which was first among the 2021 wide receiver draft class (PFF). Anytime he has the ball in his hands, Kadarius Toney is a threat to take it to the end zone. As a punt returner in college, Toney has done just that.
Kadarius Toney returned 13 punts in his collegiate career. In his 2020 senior season, Toney returned 11 punts for 139 yards and 1 touchdown.
— Anthony Rivardo (@Anthony_Rivardo) September 9, 2021
Few are more explosive with the ball in their hands than Kadarius Toney. New York would be wise to put Toney’s electric playmaking ability to use on special teams as a punt returner in Week One.