The Giants are teaching their quarterbacks and receivers the same thing that the sea witch once told “The Little Mermaid”: Don’t underestimate the importance of body language.
One novel feature of the offense crafted by the new tandem of head coach Brian Daboll and coordinator Mike Kafka is the route-running freedom given to receivers. Kadarius Toney teased the changes from the 2021 playbook by saying this offense is “not as pen and paper,” and Kenny Golladay doubled down by adding that “you don’t have to be so cookie cutter.”
The Post asked Daboll, a quarterback and two other receivers for a more thorough explanation of a concept that is modernizing the Giants.
“In some offenses, it’s tunnel vision for receivers: They see only their route and that’s it,” said quarterback Davis Webb, now in his fourth season under Daboll. “In this one, you get to see the whole picture, and you are accessing a part of your brain you never thought with before. It allows you to play with more instinct and feel.”
Let’s start with what is not happening: Receivers told to run a curl changing on a whim to a slant. And vice versa. A mistake like that is a recipe for Daniel Jones to be intercepted.
The flexibility is built into when receivers are instructed to get to certain spots on the field. Asking Golladay (6-foot-4, 213 pounds), Toney (6-0, 193), Darius Slayton (6-1, 194), Wan’Dale Robinson (5-8, 185) and other pass-catchers to all take the same path ignores the size and quickness strengths or weaknesses of each individual.
“Some systems want you to run a straight line and stop at 10 yards — and that’s what you have to do,” Slayton said. “Well, the cornerback might jump inside or outside — or he might bail or hard-press me. I might be K.G. and be able to run right through him because I’m strong, but I’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work for me. And it’s not going to work for Wan’Dale, so he might give him a move and get to the same spot.”
The early return is that receivers love freelancing as much as that love-struck mermaid loved her prince.
“Sometimes, as receivers, you can get bumped into all doing something one way,” Slayton said, “but we’re all special in our own way. I appreciate the fact that he lets us show that.”
The cues for determining how each receiver is going to make each route his own could come from deciphering whether the defense is in man or zone coverage. Or whether a cornerback is allowing an inside or outside release. Or by the depth of the linebackers and safeties.
Getting on the same page in the film room is important, but there’s no substitution for a live rep with nonverbal communication. Cues could be noticed after breaking the huddle and lining up in formation — or even in the split-seconds after the snap. In either case, talking things through isn’t an on-the-fly option.
“That’s why I keep saying we place a premium on intelligent players,” Daboll said. “And you have to be smart as a receiver in our offense.”
Some of the route adjustments are standard to most teams, the well-traveled Daboll concedes.
“Other routes that we have, you can do a lot of different things,” he said. “The body language for a skill player is really critical for a quarterback. Sometimes it’s just a timing route where you’re taking five steps, no hitch, and letting it rip. Some other times where there’s wiggle room, the skill player really has a responsibility to see it like the quarterback.”
Out with the old philosophy that the quarterback gets all the blame and all the glory. Daboll puts more onus on the pass-catchers because it is easier for five minds to think like Jones than it is for one mind to think like five.
“If D.J. thinks I’m going to do a back flip and twirl, I’m trying to do a back flip and twirl,” Slayton said. “How does D.J. see this so I can do what I need to do to get open and he can get me the ball effectively? If we’re all thinking like him, then we’re all right.”
No surprise then that one of the stars of camp is receiver David Sills V, Jones’ close friend and frequent throwing partner. They share a brain wavelength.
“A lot of the high-powered offenses kind of look like backyard football sometimes,” Sills said. “But there has to be reps and timing to get it down. It puts a lot of responsibility on us, but it gives us the ability to make plays no matter what the coverage is, because there are some routes that are going to be dead versus a certain coverage.”
Daboll didn’t overreact to the offense’s struggles early in training camp because he expected miscommunications on routes, especially considering Golladay and Toney were not in team drills during spring practices. Progress showed up this week.
“The goal in this offense is not to make the same mistake twice,” Webb said. “It’s not really a three-step hitch and throw any more. You have to step to the left and make a throw, or you have to find a different arm angle or window. Football coaches are starting to see that now. This group of coaches is very fluid.”