Is there another position on the 2022 NY Giants roster that is more of a question mark than Wide Receiver? I don’t think so. Wide Receivers accounted for just five (5) touchdowns in 2021. Even the Offensive Line is more settled than the most critical skill position group on the team.
The Giants currently list 15 wide receivers on their 90-man preseason roster. That is a huge amount of players for this position even for training camp. For comparison, the Giants have 17 offensive linemen coming to camp. They’ll start five big guys on the line while mostly starting three receivers out wide. So, the competition at wide receiver for roster spots will be intense and could come down to special teams’ play.
Familiar Faces Returning
The biggest question facing the Giants this year: Can the wide receivers stay on the field? The team brings back Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, and Kadarius Toney…all of whom were injured at various times during last season. Shepard hopes to be ready to go in August after recovering from an Achilles injury. Golladay’s first season with Big Blue was basically forgetful. While being available for 14 of the 17 games last year, Kenny hauled in less than 50% of his targets for just 521 yards and no touchdowns. Toney showed flashes of potential after the catch last year. He led the WR group in receptions (39) and was second in yards (420). Most of his production came in a handful of games. Golladay, Shepard, and Toney wore red “non-contact” jerseys all Spring.
Drops were a huge problem last season. The Giants dropped the second-most passes last year (23). No one had more drops than Darius Slayton with 6, including one when he was wide open in the Washington endzone in Game #2 last year. That could have sealed the victory. Slayton needs to break free of this ominous reputation for drops. OTAs didn’t help him much as he had a couple of drops on deep balls. He mostly played with the second team in the Spring.
CJ Board, Collin Johnson, David Sills IV, and Alex Bachman all return for 2022 after spot play filling in for the injured. Board earned his playing time on special teams. Johnson (6’6″, 225lbs) is a big target that had a solid game last year. Sills is best known for always being with Daniel Jones for the offseason workouts the last three years. Will Sills get his big break this year? Sills got plenty of time with the starters in OTAs and camp.
GM Joe (Schoen), Head Coach Brian Daboll, and new Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka have added an interesting combination of experience via free agency and fresh capability via the draft. Let’s go to the draft first.
In the second round, the Giants chose Kentucky WR Wan’Dale Robinson with pick #43. Robinson started his college career as a running back with Nebraska. Kentucky used him all over the field. Based on Spring OTAs, fans can expect Robinson to take on a “Deebo Samuel” role (lots of movement, a mixture of runs and pass catches) in the Giants’ new offense. We didn’t hear too much about Toney this Spring, mainly because he was in a red jersey during OTAs. It will be interesting to see where the new staff uses Toney. Robinson was one of the bright spots in OTAs and camp.
The Giants signed WR Richie James who did not play in 2021 (knee injury). James has a positive history from his time with the 49ers. He was a return specialist for them as well as a key WR in 2020. During OTAs, James was in with the starters giving us an early indication the staff views him highly.
Another solid pickup by Schoen was WR Travis Toivonen. Travis tried out with the Seahawks last season and was one of the last cuts prior to the season. Toivonen is another big body (6’4″, 215lbs) with a good set of hands. His size is similar to Golladay. Toivonen just received his official board certification as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. There’s his backup plan just in case.
And then there is the requisite player coming to the Giants from the Buffalo Bills, WR Austin Proehl. Proehl, signed by the Bills in 2018, is familiar with Daboll’s system which will help out tremendously in the WR room. He’s well-traveled, serving on the practice squads for the Bills, Titans, Rams, 49ers, Chargers, and back to the Bills. He is the son of 17-year NFL veteran WR Ricky Proehl.
Outlook for Wide Receiver
Will there be enough playing time for 15 receivers to make their mark and push for what may be 6-7 roster spots? In all likelihood, Shepard may be the only WR that doesn’t see significant practice time during camp. Golladay has been working with QB Daniel Jones during the downtime and did run some drills during OTAs. Toney is the unknown. He didn’t get any reps in OTAs. He needs to show his stuff during training camp. Given what we know now, here’s my take on who makes the squad:
- Sterling Shepard (may start season on IR)
- Kenny Golladay
- Wan’Dale Robinson
- Kadarius Toney
- Richie James (Special teams also)
- CJ Board (Special teams also)
- David Sills IV
- Travis Toivonen (if Shep is on IR)
Fighting hard for roster spots will be Darius Slayton, Sills, Toivonen, Colin Johnson, and Alex Bachman. They could all end up on the practice squad if no one else claims them at the end of camp.