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2022 Giants Position Review: Receivers

Giants Country on FanNation 1/27/2023 Patricia Traina
© Provided by Giants Country on FanNation

The Giants receiver group played surprisingly well in the face of adversity, especially in the second half of the season.

If anyone had told you at the start of the 2022 season that the New York Giants leading receivers would be guys not named Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, or Wan'Dale Robinson, would you have believed them?

Nope, neither would we, yet that's exactly how the 2022 season played out. Golladay, looking to rebound after a disappointing and injury-filled first Giants season in 2021, wasn't much better in 2022. He dealt with a knee injury that cost him four games in the middle part of the season (though he finally did end up with his first touchdown in two seasons with the team). And he famously declared earlier in the season, as his snaps and targets were reduced, that he should be playing regardless.

Still, his overall numbers were worse in 2022 than in 2021. Appearing in 12 games with four starts, Golladay caught six of 17 pass targets for 81 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. His contested catch rate, which was supposed to be a strength of his game, was a dismal 14.3 percent (one of seven).

Shepard made a heroic comeback attempt from a torn Achilles suffered toward the end of the 2021 season and seemed to be on track as a steady contributor to the passing game in his role as a middle-field receiver. A torn ACL suffered in Week 3 put him back on the shelf. He finished what could very well be his last season as a Giant appearing in three games with two starts and catching 13 of 24 pass targets for 154 yards and one touchdown.

Robinson, the team's intriguing second-round draft pick, was bitten by the injury bug, suffering a torn ACL in the Week 11 loss to the Lions--this after he missed Weeks 2-5 with a sprained knee. Robinson finished his rookie campaign catching 23 of 31 pass targets for 227 yards (one 100-yard receiving game, that in Week 11) and one touchdown in six games played with three starts.

MORE 2022 GIANTS POSITION UNIT REVIEWS: Quarterback | Defensive Line

And Toney, the team's first-round draft pick in 2021, just couldn't get his head into the Giants' culture, his constant injury issues proving too much for the Giants. His contract was traded to Kansas City in exchange for two 2023 draft picks, the Chiefs' compensatory third-round pick, and the team's original sixth-round selection.

With Plan A having disintegrated before their eyes, the Giants turned to a group of guys who many felt might be more supporting cast members on any other roster than main contributors.

Those guys included Darius Slayton, the team's fifth-round pick in 2019; free-agent pickup Richie James; and Bills cast-off Isaiah Hodgins. The results, though, were mixed.

Slayton was a player that many thought might not even make the team and who probably would not have had he not agreed to a pay cut. But he kept his head down, kept grinding, and displayed a welcomed attitude in the locker room, which earned him more opportunities to define his future.

After dazzling as a rookie with a team-leading eight touchdown receptions, Slayton has struggled to replicate that kind of production. He finished 2022 with two touchdown receptions, bringing his three-year total since his rookie season to seven touchdown catches. And while he posted his highest career catch percentage (61.4), he also posted eight dropped passes, another career high.

Set to be an unrestricted free agent in a class that's not universally considered a strength, Slayton will likely draw some offers on the open market the Giants might not want to match.

James had an interesting season that nearly ended before it could take off. Tabbed as the team's punt returner, James had four fumbles, including two in one game (vs. Seattle, Week 8), which contributed to the Giants' loss that week.

In his first couple of games after the bye, James was rarely used in the offense, but when Robinson suffered his season-ending injury in Week 11, James got a reprieve that, to his credit, he took advantage of.

Forty-four of his 70 regular-season targets came after Week 11, and he caught 34 of those 44 pass targets. James finished the year catching 57 out of 70 pass targets, a solid 82.9 percent catch rate, for 569 yards and four touchdowns, working mostly from the slot. He also came down with seven of 12 contested catches en route to posting a 116.0 target rating.

Best of all is that when pressed back into punt return duty following Adoree' Jackson's sprained knee in Week 11, James was pristine with ball security.

An unrestricted free agent, James likely earned a second contract with the Giants, though if he does return, it remains to be seen how big of a role he'll have on the offense.

If you're looking for the surprise player of the year on the roster,r look no further than Hodgins. Scooped up off waivers after the receiver-rich Bills waived him, Hodgins's knowledge of the offense enabled him to hit the ground running.

But the surprise was how quickly he built chemistry with quarterback Daniel Jones, a process that takes some guys an entire off-season to accomplish. Hodgins spoke of constantly communicating with Jones after every play in practice to gain insight into what the quarterback was seeing and to share what he saw running the route.

That communication certainly paid off for the soon-to-be-ERFA (exclusive rights free agent). Hodgins saw his pass targets increase after his first two weeks on the team. He also caught five touchdowns in his last seven games played (including postseason), tying with James as the team leader in regular-season touchdown receptions (four) and finishing just a fraction of a point (82.1 percent) behind James in reception percentage.

Want more to like about Hodgins' game? He posted zero dropped balls, had the best contested-catch rate of the Giants receivers (63.6), and had the highest NFL rating (126.2) while also playing a penalty-free regular season.

The Giants' other receivers included Marcus Johnson and David Sills V. Sills, with the Giants since 2019 as primarily a practice squad player, made the 53-man roster coming out of camp.

He saw most of his snaps as an outside receiver, playing in the team's first eight games and catching 11 of 17 pass targets for 106 yards before seeing his targets disappear to Hodgins.

Johnson came on board in Week 4, seeing the bulk of his offensive snaps between Weeks 5-8 before seeing his role on offense shrink and his role on special teams increase. Johnson finished with nine receptions on 22 targets for 99 yards with two drops and a 40 percent contested catch rate.

Despite a decent showing by the receivers, this unit is likely headed for a major upgrade. As already noted, it's hard to envision Slayton returning. Given the timing of his injury, Robinson is iffy at this point to be ready for training camp and could be destined to start 2023 on the PUP list, depending on his rehab.

Hodgins is an exclusive rights free agent, so there's no reason to think he won't be back. There's also no reason to think James won't get another contract, assuming he doesn't have an outrageous demand for the type of role he'd likely be asked to play next year (that of a fourth or fifth receiver).

Shepard said he's open to returning, and the Giants seemed willing to consider that possibility depending on how his rehab goes. Golladay, meanwhile, is likely destined to be a salary cap cut, perhaps even being designated as a post-June 1 cut to optimize the cap savings.

There are questions as to whether the Giants might trade for a No. 1 receiver, but if Joe Schoen didn't do so when he had the chance mid-year, it's hard to envision him changing course now, especially if it means giving up premium draft picks. 

That said, it would not be surprising if the Giants added another veteran to the group and addressed the position via the draft to give quarterback Daniel Jones more reliability as he continues his growth in this offensive system. 

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