When Giants wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert walked to the podium during coaches availability on Wednesday, it was expected the slew of Odell Beckham Jr. questions were going to come his way. But with him now on the Browns, Tolbert wanted to talk about who he actually will be coaching in the new season.
“I’m going to say this about Odell, I don’t want this to be an Odell Q/A,” Tolbert said affirmatively. “Odell was a great player for us, with the Giants. We all love Odell, we respect him as a player and wish him nothing but the best with the Cleveland Browns.”
For the Giants, though, it isn’t as simple as replacing Beckham in the offense this season. He had over 1,000 yards receiving in four of the last five seasons, and was Eli Manning’s favorite target when he was on the field.
But Beckham or not, Tolbert is confident with whoever is in his receivers room.
“Well, I believe in the group that we have in the room right now. I’m very, very confident in my coaching ability and I coach guys from all different ends of the spectrum and whoever we put on the field is going to be a contributing player for our offense. So it doesn’t matter who’s in the room. We’re going to coach him up to get him to play the best of your ability and will be successful with the guys we have in the room.”
As for who will take over Beckham’s workload, Tolbert wouldn’t say. Golden Tate may have filled his spot, but many are looking to Sterling Shepard to be the next man up. He did well in Pat Shurmur’s offense last season with 872 yards and four touchdowns on 66 receptions.
No matter the workload, Tolbert knows Shepard is going to step up to the plate and make the plays needed for the offense to be successful.
“I believe Sterling Shepard is going to be the best Sterling Shepard that he can be. 1,2,5,6 doesn’t matter what number receiver you put on it, he’s going to be the best Sterling Shepard he can be and that’s how we are going to approach it.”
What about the receiver depth? Is there anyone that can step up next to Tate and Shepard?
Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler will be back for the Giants this season, but there will be a keen eye on Corey Coleman — the former Browns first-rounder — who proved to be worthy for another season as well. Coleman did very well in the return game, but Tolbert will be tasked with unlocking his true receiver potential. He’s had issue with his hands, but the speed and cutting ability is naturally there.Coleman bounced from team to team last season, but that isn’t the case this offseason. Tolbert knows Coleman being with the team throughout the summer will see some positive results for a player he believes will make the best of his opportunity this year.
“It is a big opportunity, especially him being in the offseason program with us,” Tolbert said. “He’s getting the whole gambit if you will: from the very first install to the whole, you know, all the way through. Last year when he came in we were his fourth offense he’s been in, in maybe the span of 3 months. Now it’s just our offense the whole time so he can grasp what we’re doing and have a solid contribution.”
And finally, there’s fifth-round Darius Slayton, coming out of Auburn with blazing sub-4 speed, and at 6-foot-1, just screams deep-ball threat. At rookie minicamp, Slayton may have had the jitters to start, as he was seen dropping a few easy passes. But that comes with the transition to the NFL, and Tolbert sees a player that can be “explosive” for the offense if he can haul the ball in.
“His first practice, you know, he was trying to figure a lot of stuff out in the first half of the first practice, had a couple of drops, for the second half of that practice he made some good catches in traffic and had two good remaining days. So looking for explosive plays from Darius Slayton, he’s an explosive player who’s made a lot of plays, 21 or 22 yards a catch, something like that in college and I’m looking forward to him bringing that to the Giants.”
So, no, Beckham won’t be making one-handed grabs or drawing extra attention from defenses anymore. But that doesn’t mean the Giants’ receiving corps is in shambles. There are still good pieces to work with, including Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram who will see their fair share of targets.
“It doesn’t matter who is on the field because we call plays depending on who is on the field,” Tolbert said. “It didn’t matter who’s on the field. So, whoever is on the field, those guys are going to make plays for us.”