Sports

Kadarius Toney is the new ‘Human Joystick’ and a fun addition to Giants offense

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.

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.”



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