EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jalin Hyatt and Wan'Dale Robinson first played in the same football game on Nov. 6, 2021, in Lexington, Ky.
Robinson caught 13 passes for 166 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. Hyatt gained 41 yards on his only reception.
Despite his prodigious output, Robinson's recollection of that afternoon is succinct. "We lost the game," he said of the Kentucky Wildcats' 45-42 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers.
Hyatt's recollection of the game is focused on one player.
"Oh, yeah, Wan'Dale," he said. "It was my sophomore year, and I wasn't really starting, I was getting some snaps but really just watching Wan'Dale - we won a close one but man, he put it on us. We couldn't stop him. We tried to double him, and we still couldn't."
The two young receivers are now Giants teammates. Robinson was a second-round draft choice in 2022, Hyatt a third rounder this year. Robinson did not play in the season's first two games as he continued his recuperation from a torn knee ligament suffered last year. After playing 11 snaps in his Week 3 debut in San Francisco, Robinson has become an integral part of the wide receiver rotation by averaging 47 snaps the last three games.
Last week in Buffalo, Hyatt participated in a season-high 56 snaps and coach Brian Daboll said the promising rookie will continue to get increased playing time, starting Sunday at home against the Washington Commanders.
"I think he's fast and that he's got to play," Daboll said. "You can go out here and practice and do that, which is important, but you've got to get some game reps and run routes against DBs that are playing in the NFL in a competitive way. I think each week, he's gotten a little bit better. There's a lot to learn when you're a young player, but he's done a good job of practicing the right way, of preparing. I think he's got some good talent, and we're going to play him."
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s for the 2023 season as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.
This season, Robinson is second on the team with 22 catches and third with 141 yards. Hyatt has seven receptions for 120 yards, including a team season-long 58-yarder in the victory at Arizona. Those totals should continue to grow.
"It's a hard position to play, receiver," Daboll said. "I coached it for six years. There weren't many rookie receivers that I've had that have played right away. (Former New England Patriot) Deion Branch comes to mind as one of them. But it's a learning experience when you're a young receiver. There's a lot of different things that happen that maybe didn't happen to him in college relative to whether it's press coverage, certain adjustments, things like that, and that happens for most. The position, when I coached receivers, it takes a little bit of time for younger players.
"So again, he's a young guy that's still learning, and he'll get some opportunities."
Like Hyatt, fifth-year pro Daruis Slayton is a speedy receiver from the Southeastern Conference. As a rookie in 2019, he led the Giants with 740 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, suggesting his transition was smooth.
"It didn't take very long because, but we had Eli (Manning) at the time, a veteran quarterback," Slayton said. "You had to get on the train and get going or not. So, for me, it came pretty quick. I still think back to those times and sometimes you get in the NFL and you're like, 'Why does this guy, whoever, not get this or get that?' And then you're like, 'Wait, this is his first time doing all this stuff and that's before you actually snap the ball and go play.'
"I played in the SEC, but the number one biggest jump is mental. If you watch (Hyatt) play, you can see the physical. My grandma can see the physical, but there's so much more. People get excited, see people make plays and stuff like that and want them to play 60 snaps now, but it's just not realistic. There's so much more to it. As much as I love to run and catch the ball, we have to block as well, and it takes a while. In college, half the time you just run out there. In the NFL, you have rules. You have to learn all those rules for different plays and things. There's a lot more information and I think that Jalin has done a good job of coming along and learning those things and that's what has allowed him to play more and more."
Hyatt averaged 18.9 yards a catch last season at Tennessee and thanks to the 58-yarder, leads the Giants with a team-high 17.1-yard average. His big play against the Cardinals is the Giants' only completion longer than 31 yards this season. Hyatt is arguably the Giants' fastest player, one who can give them a much-needed deep threat.
"I definitely could bring that," Hyatt said. "That's one of my strengths as a receiver is, deep play ability. It takes the whole team for those plays to happen. It's not an individual sport. Everybody has to do their assignment; everybody has to do their role for plays like that to work. When plays like that work, that's how you win football games as well. It keeps defenses honest, and you know, we're going to be calling more of them, more explosive plays to get it downfield, just to change it up for the defense. We were throwing a lot of short in-routes and we need to start doing some explosives. We're heading toward the right direction, and we have a lot of faith in our quarterbacks and our offensive line."
"We both have confidence in ourselves to go out there and make big plays," Robinson said. "I feel like that's why they drafted us and that's what they expect out of us."
As they continue to grow as professionals, Hyatt and Robinson still reminisce about one of their most memorable college games.
"It was actually crazy," Robinson said. "We talk about it all the time. In my year at Kentucky, he wasn't the Jalin Hyatt that scored the five touchdowns (last year vs. Alabama) and things like that. But that offense was explosive whenever they came and played us. They had the ball for like 15 minutes and scored 45 points.
"He had a pretty long catch. Luckily for me, that was one of my best games in college. So, it was pretty exciting and then the next year he went crazy against us (five catches for 138 yards and two scores), but I wasn't there. I was drafted."
As a rookie, Robinson played in six games with three starts and caught 23 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. He missed four early-season games with a knee injury and tore his ACL in a Nov. 20 game vs. Detroit, when he had career-high totals of nine receptions for 100 yards. Though he missed the rest of the season, Robinson established himself as a receiver who would play a big role one in the Giants' future. Then he was joined by another one in Hyatt. Naturally, they bonded.
"Instantly," Hyatt said. "The first day I met him up here, we talked about that day, that game. I was like, 'Man, why you had to do that to us?' He was like, 'Hey, y'all won the game though,' and that's how we connected. So, good dude. Good player. Glad he's here. Glad he's on my team. I'm proud of what he has done so far."
The feeling is shared by Robinson.
"Our two schools are rivals," he said, "and just to see that we're on the field together, sharing it and helping each other out is nice."
For them and the Giants.
*The Giants have had trouble with NFC East rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, but since 2018 they are 6-3-1 vs Washington, including 2-1-1 at home. They were 1-0-1 vs. the Commanders in 2022, with the tie in MetLife Stadium on Dec. 4.
*The Commanders had three takeaways in their victory in Atlanta. Since the start of the 2022 season, they are 11-3-1 in games when they have had at least one takeaway and 0-8 without one.
*From the something's-got-to-give department: The Giants have an NFL-low five sacks. Washington quarterback Sam Howell has been sacked a league-high 34 times, the third-highest total by a quarterback through his team's first six games since 1970. Only Houston's David Carr (39 in 2002 and 35 in 2005) was sacked more in his team's first six games of a season.
View photos of the MetLife Stadium field design for Week 7's Legacy Game - presented by Quest®