EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants have something in receiver Kadarius Toney. The the 20th overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft just moves differently than most. That much was apparent watching Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
It’s as if he glides instead of runs, similar to speedy receiver DeSean Jackson, who has consistently left defenders in the dust over the years and will be on the opposing sideline Sunday when his Los Angeles Rams visit the Giants (1 p.m. ET, Fox).
There aren’t many receivers who catch the ball like Toney did late in the second quarter, go from zero to 100 seemingly in the span of a yard, put their foot in the ground and split a pair of defenders on the way to being tripped up near the goal line. On the play when Toney was ejected for throwing a punch in the fourth quarter, he first caught a pass near the numbers, stopped, started, jumped back and slipped through a pair of defenders before spinning and carrying the pile for a few more yards.
No wonder his college coach at the University of Florida, Jim McElwain, once called Toney the “Human Joystick.”
His game does resemble the former receiver/returner Dante Hall, who also held that nickname. It’s as if a gamer is slamming the A, B, X and Y buttons simultaneously when the ball is in Toney’s hands. He finished with 10 catches on 13 targets for 189 yards against the Cowboys and showed he can catch, run, make people miss, throw and jump over defenders. He even took a direct snap, gaining seven yards to the Dallas yard line early in the fourth quarter.
“[Toney’s] special,” said Mike Glennon, who took over at quarterback when starter Daniel Jones left late in the second quarter with a concussion. “I think he showed what he is capable of doing. That was fun to see. … You throw him a short pass and he takes it, you just don’t see that at the NFL level very often, making guys miss like that. He’s got a unique skill set that we are all finally seeing. I’m glad he is on our team.”
Among the 57 players with a minimum of 20 receptions this season, Toney has the fourth-most yards after catch at 8.25 per reception (third among receivers), according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The hesitation, the dead leg, the supersonic spin and the striding, full-speed cuts are all part of his repertoire. They have been on display in a much bigger role the past two weeks with the Giants short on receivers and Toney more prepared to play after a spring and summer when he almost never practiced for a variety of reasons, ailments and injuries.
“The process is really just more of, if he goes left, I’ve got to go right,” Toney said last week about making defenders miss. “It’s just kind of like playing freeze tag, something like that. It’s that kind of feel when you’re out there.”
Whatever it is, it’s special, and needs to be a big part of the offense moving forward.
Toney was banged up late against the Cowboys and is dealing with an ankle problem that has his status for Sunday’s game against the Rams in doubt. Still, he is proving he might be the scariest weapon on this offense, even when running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and receiver Kenny Golladay (knee) are healthy. The game plan is sure to feature him significantly more moving forward than early this season, when he was still getting up to speed.
Toney’s make-you-miss ability hasn’t been seen around these parts since the Giants last drafted a receiver from an SEC school, LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr., in 2014. And similar to OBJ’s time with the Giants, drama seems to find Toney — see Sunday’s ejection, when he exited after throwing a punch at Cowboys safety Damontae Kazee following a minor scrum. That drew the ire of coach Joe Judge.
“There’s a pretty distinct line in terms of competing and doing the things we’re not going to condone as a team that put us behind. That’s not going to be accepted,” Judge said. “It’s not going to be condoned. That’s as far as I’m going to go with that.”
Toney is expected to avoid a suspension, a league source told ESPN on Monday. He’s going through the standard discipline process with the league that will likely result in a fine.
The young playmaker seems to recognize his error and apologized to the entire organization on Monday morning.
Wanna take the time out to apologize to the entire organization, Owners, My Teammates and the entire #BigBlue💙…your emotions just can get the best of you sometimes…..No Excuses just actions 💯🤞🏽#ThankYall
— Kadarius Toney (@0fficialC2N) October 11, 2021
Now it’s a matter of learning from his mistakes.
“At the end of the day, he is still a rookie and he has a lot of learning to do. He’s going to make mistakes,” Golladay said. “I am pretty sure he wishes he could have that moment back. Turn the other cheek. He will learn from it.”
If he does, it will put the full attention on the unique things he can do on the field. The “Human Joystick” is more than just a description, and he does embrace the nickname, even if he goes by Yung Joka online and as a musical artist.
“At the time, I really didn’t think nothing about [the nickname]. It was just me out there just going out there wanting to play and just do what I can,” Toney said. “I didn’t really think too much of it, but now, I kind of thank [McElwain], you know what I’m saying? Because it’s kind of like a brand as far as me just playing the way I play.”
San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner out 1-2 weeks, coach Kyle Shanahan says
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after receiving important injury news on two of their best players.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner suffered groin and hamstring strains, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.
The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased by the fact that both players aren’t expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.
“That’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night that I hope for that it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And strains usually [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think it was very good news considering what it could have been.”
According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the Dec. 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner even for one week is significant.
Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player, establishing himself as the league’s premier multidimensional weapon.
On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving scores in the same season.
Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent surge, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a burgeoning running game.
“He’s been a big part of our offense,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that.”
Replacing Warner also won’t be easy, especially since it’s something the Niners haven’t had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first contest Warner has missed since he came into the league in 2018, snapping a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.
How that plays out this week will depend on the status of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s game with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since Week 1. Greenlaw is considered day-to-day this week.
And with strongside linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers figure to enter the Seattle game woefully thin at linebacker. That puts even more onus on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.
“Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and he loves playing the football game. That’s not changing, but he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate … He’s been playing at a high level all year and whether he’s inside or outside, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty good right now.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and makes him a candidate to head to injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not expected to have surgery to repair broken toe during bye week
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that Rodgers is “gathering other opinions, so we’ll see where that goes,” but a source said those opinions are not expected to lead to surgery during this week’s bye.
The Packers (9-3) are off until Dec. 12, when they’ll face the Chicago Bears in a Sunday night prime-time game.
“The most important thing is healing and taking care of my toe,” Rodgers said Sunday when asked about his bye-week plans.
NFL Network reported earlier on Monday that Rodgers does not plan to have surgery.
Rodgers said he fractured the toe during his COVID-19 quarantine earlier this month, and he has played in the past three games since with almost no on-field practice preparations.
The only full-fledged practice he took part in during that stretch was on Nov. 19, two days before the Packers’ loss at Minnesota. He said he received a pain-killing injection at halftime of the game against the Vikings but did not need one to play in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“The difference is I didn’t have to get shot up again at halftime, so definitely the healing this week not practicing [helped],” Rodgers said after he threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Rams.
“Last week, I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint. This week, I just did a walk-through on Saturday and obviously all the walk-throughs during the week, but no practice time, I think really helped. It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I’ve definitely felt better, but third quarter, late third, early fourth and I got stepped on early in the game, there was definitely some pain I was dealing with.”
Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown on Sunday, beating Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard score. In the past two games combined, Rodgers has thrown for 692 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.
He said after Sunday’s game that he would make a decision about surgery after additional tests on Monday.
“The toe felt good most of the game,” Rodgers said. “Was just actually in talking with the docs. Not sure at this point; we’re going to do some more testing in the morning and get a better view of what’s going on in there, and then make a decision at that time.”
LaFleur said previously that he would leave the decision up to Rodgers and the medical staff.
“I’m not involved in any of those decisions, so I just take any information and hear it,” LaFleur said. “I don’t have ‘M.D.’ after my name. So I’ll let them handle that.”
Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill suspended two games for punching Las Vegas Raiders OG John Simpson
The suspension was issued by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan for violations of unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules.
“After the Las Vegas Raiders-Dallas Cowboys game on November 25, you engaged in conduct that this office considers unnecessary roughness and displays a lack of sportsmanship. Specifically, as both teams were shaking hands, you waited more than 50 seconds for your opponent at the 50-yard line. When you located him, you then walked toward him in the opposite direction of your locker room. You both engaged in a verbal chest-to-chest confrontation which you escalated by throwing an open hand punch to his facemask, forcible enough to cause your opponent’s helmet to come off,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Hill.
Hill is appealing the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer. Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, will issue a ruling on the appeal.
If Hill’s suspension stands, he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 13. He would miss games against the New Orleans Saints this Thursday and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 12.
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