Can Kenny Golladay prove he wasn’t a Giants mistake?
What happens next with Kenny Golladay?
By all metrics, Golladay — who has two receptions for 22 yards all season — has not contributed anything to what the Giants have built and are building as this remarkable season rolls on.
His hard-to-believe dropped pass on a crossing route in last Sunday’s victory over the Texans certainly looked and felt like a rock-bottom moment. It might not be.
If Golladay does not get a uniform this Sunday, when the Giants face the Lions — his former team — at MetLife Stadium, it will be a ship-has-sailed denouement for the team’s second-highest-paid player (four-year, $72 million) and No. 1 disappointment, now that Kadarius Toney is catching touchdown passes for the Chiefs.
Playing for the first time in six weeks after missing time due to a sprained knee, Golladay heard boos on the second offensive series against the Texans when he did not secure a pass along the sideline that was tailing away from him. It was catchable, but calling it a blatant drop is probably a bit harsh.
Late in the second quarter, Golladay broke free on a crossing route — this does not happen often — and Daniel Jones put the ball into Golladay’s midsection, but it did not stick. At the time, it seemed more difficult for Golladay to drop the ball than to catch it. That was the 26th and final snap for Golladay. Brian Daboll had seen enough. Golladay was sent to the bench, and he was replaced by Isaiah Hodgins, a recent signing with all of three NFL games on his resume.
Will we see Golladay on the field again this season?
“I have conversations with our guys all the time. I’ll keep those private,’’ Daboll said. “Again, all I expect these guys to do is come in on Wednesday, learn from the tape, go out to practice, have a good week at practice, and then by the end of the week, we’ll decide where everybody fits. And that’s how we approach it. Really not much more than that.’’
There’s a bit more than that with Golladay. There will be no uproar among Giants fans if they never see him again and he fades from view as the last vestige of a failed regime. After all, their team is 7-2. Golladay is under contract for two more years, but there is zero chance he is on the team in 2023. Daboll has to determine whether Golladay can give him anything whatsoever in the final eight games. He gave him nothing in the first nine.
Daboll is not about burying players, but he is about making them earn it, no matter the contract, reputation or popularity. Heck, given what has transpired recently, it is difficult to recall back to the start of the season when Darius Slayton was a non-entity. He was a healthy scratch in the season opener in Nashville, quite a comedown for a player considered to be a steal from the fifth round of 2019 draft after he caught a combined 98 passes and had 11 touchdowns his first two seasons. In Week 2 this season, Slayton got four snaps. In Week 3, he got 14. He was an afterthought on an offense that wasn’t lighting anything up in the passing game.
Slayton earned his playing time with his work during the week, and Daboll gave him the time. Slayton played a season-high 55 snaps in the 24-16 victory over the Texans, and his 54-yard catch-and-run escape job for a touchdown qualifies as perhaps the offensive highlight of the season.
“It was obviously a little different,’’ Slayton said of being pushed aside in the early going by the new coaching staff. “I hadn’t really experienced that yet in my career so far. I kind of just approached it like everything else — made sure I was on my plays, made sure I was keeping my body right, things like that. Making sure I was going to be ready when my opportunity came.’’
It might be too late for Golladay to make a similar comeback. Slayton kept quiet and never complained about his situation. After logging just two snaps in Week 2 against the Panthers, Golladay said, “I don’t agree with it. I should be playing regardless … that’s a fact.” But he stopped far short of causing a distraction.
It could be Golladay, with $40 million in guaranteed money coming to him from the Giants, has lost his edge. It is more likely he has lost his wheels. He did not show much burst or explosion in training camp, and evidently he is not showing a great deal of that behind closed doors in practice.
As one Giants insider put it, “Kenny is not a bad guy. It’s not his fault he can’t get open.’’
Golladay spent his first four years in the NFL with the Lions, and what happened in Detroit definitely stayed in Detroit. He put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019, the second of which he also led the league with 11 touchdown receptions. Never a speed guy, his great size at 6-foot-4 and ability to grapple with a smaller defensive back and come away with a contested catch placed him in the second tier among the NFL’s elite receivers entering free agency. The previous Giants front office regime was desperate to find targets for the young Jones, and overpaid mightily for Golladay in 2021 with a contract worth an average of $18 million per year, a deal instantly stamped around the league as an overpay. It was great money for a good player.
As it turned out, it was great money for a declining player. Golladay had played in just five games for the Lions in 2020, but the hip injury that sidelined him was supposed to be completely healed when he arrived to the Giants. Golladay played in 14 games in 2021, but did he ever look remotely explosive? Did he look at all like a physical force going up for the ball? He was targeted 76 times, and came away with 37 receptions for 521 yards — making less than 50 percent of catches when the ball came his way. Instead of being a reliable red-zone target, he was red-zone allergic, finishing with no touchdowns catches.
Benching Golladay against his former team figures to be devastating for him, whether he chooses to admit it or not. He does not play on special teams, making it difficult for Daboll to justify activating him for 10-20 snaps on offense. Hodgins, who played for the past two seasons in Buffalo, where Daboll was the offensive coordinator, was more productive in his 43 snaps on Sunday — he had two receptions for 43 yards — than Golladay has looked all season. Marcus Johnson, Richie James and David Sills are not exactly intriguing options, but a case could be made that all of them deserve a shot ahead of Golladay.
Or maybe Daboll takes the other approach. If Golladay comes out and kills it this week in practice, perhaps he gets the call on Sunday against the Lions’ 27th-ranked pass defense. Daboll, after all, has pushed so many of the right buttons navigating his roster. Take, for example, the decision to move on from Toney, who is only 23 and could have been part of the plan in 2023 if he were able to stay healthy and convince the Giants he had his head on straight. Toney’s departure hasn’t hamepered the team yet.
Golladay’s issues are different, and he likely was always going to be on a one-and-done year with the Giants because of his bloated salary cap hit of $21.4 million in 2023. But does Daboll believe Golladay has completely outlived his usefulness? We shall see.
Sigh Eagles sigh
They were not even halfway there, and the Eagles never really gave off the vibe of a team capable of making a legitimate run at an undefeated season. Their winning streak to start this season lasted an impressive eight games, and the longer it went on, the more it was going to reveal about them once they had to react to their first loss.
At first glance, it sounds as if they handled it in stride.
A defeat to the Commanders on “Monday Night Football’’ by a deceptive final score of 32-21 was doomed by three turnovers. One of them, a fumble by tight end Dallas Goedert, came after he had his head twisted on an obvious facemask penalty that was not called.
Nick Sirianni, the Eagles’ second-year coach, wasn’t going down that path.
“We have to have better ball security there,’’ he said. “We take a lot of pride in the way we protect the football. We were obviously loose with it there, that’s how they got it out.’’
The Eagles’ fate was sealed when defensive end Brandon Graham was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty as he made light contact with Taylor Heinicke after the Commanders quarterback gave himself up with a slide to keep the clock running.
Once again, no dice from the head coach.
“That’s not what lost us the football game,’’ Sirianni said.
So what did his team do to lose the game?
“You create your own luck, and we played like crap,’’ Sirianni said. “We didn’t do a good enough job. It feels like things go against you. Those plays, those scenarios that happen when you play like that get magnified, whether it was the right call or wrong call. So we made our own luck today, and it was bad.’’
The Giants actually will get to see the Eagles at some point this season. The NFC East rivals finally meet up in Week 14 at MetLife Stadium and then again four weeks later in the regular-season season finale in Philadelphia.
Asked and answered
Here are two questions that have come up recently that we will attempt to answer as accurately as possible:
Brian Daboll sounded genuinely regretful for screaming at offensive lineman Jack Anderson after Anderson was flagged for a false start early in the second quarter. Was it that big of a deal, and did Daboll really need to be so apologetic?
Daboll did not have to say anything about this other than to reveal his honest feelings. “Genuine’’ is the word that comes to mind most often when considering what Daboll has shown about himself in his first season as a head coach. Sure, the way he lambasted Anderson was a bit over the top, but it was not any harsher than many coach-player sideline interactions on a weekly basis. This one was caught by the television camera and circulated widely. Seeing himself red-faced and irate understandably did not sit well with Daboll. It was the heat of the moment, he said. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, he said. Anderson stood there and took it, and at some point after the game Daboll did smooth things over with Anderson. Here’s a hunch that Anderson had no issue with any of this. Players admire Daboll’s feistiness — and his honesty.
Adoree’ Jackson returned two punts against the Texans — the first time he has been back there with the Giants. Is that a good move or too risky?
Too risky. Jackson is putting together a wonderful season as the team’s bona fide top cornerback. The Giants absolutely needed this out of him after they had to make James Bradberry a salary-cap casualty (now the Eagles are benefitting from the roster albatross new general manager Joe Schoen inherited). The Giants defense cannot afford to be without Jackson for one snap, much less a portion of a game. A punt returner cannot simply call for a fair catch every time, and any hit Jackson takes on special teams is one hit too many. Yes, we know Richie James botched the game in Seattle with two lost fumbles. There is no problem sitting him down. The Giants got it out of their system with Jackson, who said he enjoys getting the ball in his hands. But playtime should be over. Now let someone else handle the punt return duties. Jackson is too valuable on defense.
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