It has not been seen often in his relatively brief and unproductive time with the Giants. It is there now, though. But for how long, who knows?
“Real excited,” wide receiver Kenny Golladay said Wednesday after practice. “Definitely a smile on my face when I’m out there with the guys.”
A smile is not the default expression for Golladay, who had done excruciatingly little since he signed a four-year, $72 million contract prior to the 2021 season. The Giants were a disaster with him last season and are one of the NFL’s real pleasant surprises this year, largely without him. Golladay, after missing the past four games with a knee injury, is strong trending towards making his return Sundaywhen the Giants come out of their bye with a game against the Texans at MetLife Stadium.
“Just another weapon,” Golladay said, when asked what he can bring to the offense.
This is all new for Golladay, 29, in his sixth NFL season. He never made the playoffs in his four years in Detroit. His only winning season was 2017, when he was a rookie and the Lions squeezed out a record of 9-7. After that, it was all downhill: 6-10, 3-12-1 and 4-13. Through eight games in the four seasons Golladay was in Detroit, the Lions went 4-4, 3-5, 3-4-1 and 2-6. Last year, his first season with the Giants, they were 2-6 after eight games and finished 4-13.
“At the end of the day, I’m a competitor, I’m a winner,” Golladay said. “Even if I haven’t been part of a team that’s 6-2, my mindset is still a dog mentality.”
It is also true that Golladay has never before been this much of a non-entity. His back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018 and 2019 and his NFL-high 11 touchdown catches in 2019 seem like anomalies, as the version of the wide receiver the Giants have seen is incapable of achieving much of anything. Last season, he was targeted 76 times in 14 games and came away with only 37 receptions for 521 yards.
This season, Golladay has been targeted only six times in four games and 99 snaps. He has two catches for 22 yards. He has been a 6-foot-4, 213-pound invisible man.
Can he turn his fortunes around in the second half of the season? His team needs an injection of something, badly and immediately. The Giants are 29th in the league in passing offense, averaging only 159.1 yards per game. Their leading receiver is running back Saquon Barkley. A top target, tight end Daniel Bellinger, will be out for at least several more weeks, recovering from eye surgery. It is certainly not too much to expect rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, who missed four games with a sprained knee, to be more productive down the stretch. Darius Slayton is averaging a team-high 14.5 yards per reception among the receivers and he provides a semblance of a deep threat. Whatever Golladay has left to give, the Giants can use it.
“That’s really my main goal, to hit the ground running,” Golladay said. “I don’t want to come in the game and act like I lost a step as far as playbook-wise. That’s my main goal, when I do get in there, there’s not a falloff.”
Maybe, and this might be crazy talk, Golladay can actually surface as a red-zone threat and — dare we say it? — came up with his first touchdown for the Giants.
Those who make the decisions on how much Golladay plays or sits usually have little to say about him, one way or another. Head coach Brian Daboll said Golladay “did some good stuff” Tuesday in his first practice back from the knee injury.
Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka was not interested in delving into what went wrong for Golladay in the first half of the season.
“I think Kenny’s done a good job,” Kafka said. “He’s come in and he’s been a great teammate, worked hard, got a little dinged up, worked his tail off to get ready for this week and we’re happy that he’s available.”
Yes, he is available, but how much will he play Sunday against the Texans? He is not exactly a conquering hero making his return. Kafka said Golladay’s role is “still being defined” for this week and Daboll certainly did not promise a bigger role for the receiver in the coming weeks.
“We’ll see, we’ll just take it day-by-day, game-by-game,” Daboll said. “However it goes.”
Perhaps Golladay has a second act in him.
“I’m really not trying to prove anything to no coaches,” Golladay said. “I’m out here playing for my guys, the people in this locker room. Of course I got to show on the practice field to the coaches, but at the same time, I’m playing for the guys in this locker room, period.”