When healthy, wide receiver Kenny Golladay has been a very effective intermediate-to-downfield threat. During his last full season (2019), he was second in the NFL with 22 receptions of 20+ yards. This is an area where the Giants really struggled in 2020, ranking 2nd-to-last in the NFL. Golladay fills a void in New York’s passing game that desperately needed to be addressed and should help accelerate Daniel Jones’ development.
Golladay won’t necessarily help in this department by exploding past defenders. He doesn’t consistently create a ton of separation purely based on his athleticism or route-running. His strength is more in his ability to use his size (6’4”) and wingspan. He doesn’t need a ton of separation to get open as a result. In fact, his ability to make tough, contested catches is what makes him so effective.
Last offseason, we wrote about a concern we had with Daniel Jones’ inconsistent ball placement, especially on throws downfield. Golladay’s presence should help turn more of those imprecise passes at the intermediate level into completions, as you can see on a few examples below.
Watch the great body control it took to reel in this pass that was throw behind him:
Golladay was also able to hold on despite getting hit immediately.
Here, watch Golladay snatch this throw out of the air. You can see that he wasn’t exactly wide open. He didn’t need to be.
On the below play against the Jaguars last season, Golladay did his best Lynn Swann impersonation to soar above the defense and steal a completion:
Golladay’s ability to use his height and ball skills to play above the defense should help provide a significant upgrade for the Giants near the goal line. Last year, the Giants ranked 31st in red zone scoring. Golladay’s presence should help turn more field-goal drives into touchdowns.
A receiver who is open in the eyes of the quarterback despite tight coverage is so valuable in the red zone, as you could see on the above play.
The below touchdown against the Chiefs in early 2019 is another great example. Golladay was aligned in the slot to the left.
Golladay again didn’t create a ton of separation. Again, that didn’t matter. He was able to make another tough catch against tight coverage.
Golladay isn’t a quick-twitch receiver who is going to separate instantly at the line against press coverage, as you could see on the plays above. However, he can still be a factor in the quick passing game, which he’ll see plenty of in Jason Garrett’s offense. Again, his ability to be successful in this area will come from using his size to win.
You can see an example on the below slant route. Golladay stemmed inside initially to ensure he could get in between his man and the quarterback. Then he subtly pushed off with his outside arm to create separation. Good luck fighting through a 6’4″ receiver with long arms to defend that pass.
Of course, Golladay held on to the ball despite getting sandwiched by two tacklers.
A big receiver on the outside who can consistently win 1-on-1’s helps to simplify the game for the quarterback. He can more often ignore the noise happening in the middle of the field, isolate the 1-on-1 on the perimeter, and make the right throw to beat the coverage. Golladay’s presence should help slow things down for Jones and give him that safety outlet on the outside in the face of uncertainty (much like Plaxico Burress did for a young Eli Manning).
With the weapons they’ve acquired this offseason and the players they have returning, the Giants have more than enough talent for their young passing game to take the next step. Are they the Buccaneers or Chiefs at the skill positions? No. But they have the pieces to be a versatile, flexible, and formidable passing game.
However, it won’t matter who is catching passes if the offensive line doesn’t improve significantly. The Giants were among the worst offenses in the league last season in sacks and pressure percentage. As we all saw, that condensed the passing game. When a quarterback knows he doesn’t have time to sit in the pocket and scan the field, he has to make more quick decisions based on pre-snap reads. This leads to more forced passes and bad decisions. It means less time for route combinations to develop downfield. It means more missed opportunities and fewer big plays.
Jason Garret’s offensive approach last season received a ton of criticism, and it wasn’t entirely unwarranted. We even wrote about how unimaginative his play-calling was. Garrett wasn’t the only reason for that, though. Options are limited when protection is non-existent. Re-watch the Chiefs Offense in this year’s Super Bowl if you don’t believe me.
The Giants appear to be on the right track on both sides of the ball this offseason. But they HAVE to address the offensive line and drastically improve in the protection department. Otherwise, we’ll be having the same conversation about another disappointing Giants team next offseason.