Kadarius Toney wore two cleats at rookie minicamp on Saturday, which was a step in the right direction. But he was limited for a second straight day, held out of drills during the entire second half of practice.
When Toney did play, he received noticeably close attention from the coaching staff, including consistent instructions and constructive corrections from wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert.
Head coach Joe Judge said “it’s not an injury situation” that kept Toney out of several late drills and conditioning laps for a second straight day. But it’s hard to believe Judge and the Giants wouldn’t have wanted to maximize their on-field time with Toney if he were completely healthy.
Judge paid extra attention to his first-round pick, too, watching up close in person when Toney did the same individual drills that had prompted him to kick off his poorly-fitted right cleat and go partially barefoot on Friday.
Tolbert had Toney repeat one of his drills as he coached up his route-running. And the receivers coach also built Toney up when he did well, running out to high-five him after a sharp route and catch in team drills.
Judge’s energy was high all around on Saturday.
The second-year coach ran instead of walking anytime he switched fields between the offense and defense. He unleashed an expletive-laced rant when he saw too many mistakes in a kickoff coverage drill.
And for a second straight day, Judge stopped tryout tight end Kelvin Benjamin to correct his ball security and finish in a drill. It definitely seemed like Judge and Tolbert were putting a little extra pressure on Toney, too, to see what he could handle.
Judge maintained the lightened workload was part of the plan for Toney, with more work coming up this week when veterans arrive. The Giants’ first voluntary full-team OTA practice is May 24.
“One thing to keep in mind is these guys have not been a part of team sports now in over five months,” Judge said. “A lot of them are skill positions early in their career, so you have to make sure you don’t put two days together that may put them in a stress position.
“Our goal is to get them started so that this week coming up they can jump in with our vets in our full off-season program and be moving and stay healthy,” Judge added. “It’s going to be a four-day week of working this next week, and we want to take it and make it a seven-day week.”
Toney did run full speed when he was practicing on Saturday, but no doubt Judge wants to drive the point home that he wants Toney making headlines for his football, and not for cleats that don’t fit, jersey numbers he doesn’t like, and barefoot practices.
Toney started Friday with cleats that didn’t fit. He used a second pair to finish Friday’s practice. And he seemed to have socks and a third pair on for Saturday’s session. He also dropped a short pass from Clayton Thorson.
Maybe he has a blister on his foot, or it’s a calf or foot issue. Maybe Judge really has backed Toney off for workload’s sake. Regardless, this needs to be worked out so when the veterans get here and the real football starts, Toney can just line up and play.
Giants co-owner Steve Tisch attended Saturday’s practice. It is the first time in a long time that Tisch has been seen in public. Co-owner John Mara assured in March that Tisch has been involved and fully apprised of all matters, but it was another thing to see Tisch standing on the sideline on Saturday. Tisch, 72, understandably had faded out of public view since his daughter Hilary’s tragic death at age 36 last August. He owns 50% of the Giants, though, so it is significant to see him back around the team in public view.
Third-round pick Aaron Robinson did a ton of work the past two days as a slot corner, repping in the middle of the field. Sixth-round pick Rodarius Williams lined up more often on the outside. If Robinson picks up the playbook quickly, there should be no reason he doesn’t start in the slot for the Giants this fall — although it’s hard to tell if he really stands 6-foot-1 as the roster suggests …
Pass coverage was not Azeez Ojulari’s strength at Georgia. The Giants drafted him for his pass rushing and run stopping and his overall potential. But I’m skeptical how well Ojulari will be able to move in space at the second level as an outside linebacker in Pat Graham’s defense. My guess is that the Giants won’t ask him to do it much until he proves he can …
Williams and undrafted free agent DE Raymond Johnson III joined Toney sitting out the conditioning run toward the end of practice. Williams dealt with a calf on Friday, too, though he practiced Saturday. Johnson was pulled out midway through Saturday’s practice.
Phase II of the NFL offseason will last for just this week. It will include a combination of virtual meetings and on-field work with players in attendance. Judge would not say how many veterans he expects to show up this week or by May 24 for the start of voluntary OTA practices. The NFL Players’ Association is encouraging players not to attend.
“Obviously it’s a voluntary period, so we are going to work with every player we can whether it’s virtual or in-person,” the coach said. “So whoever is here we’ll coach in person, whoever is virtual for the meetings we’ll work with them virtually. Some guys will be doing both.”
The Giants did have full participation at this weekend’s 22-man rookie camp practices from those who were eligible, Judge said, in spite of the union urging rookies to skip, as well.