Besides quarterback Daniel Jones, there isn’t another player on the New York Giants’ roster with as much to lose this season as receiver Darius Slayton. Not only is he facing a make-or-break season on the field in 2022, but he could end up a cap casualty even before the regular season begins. For Slayton, this preseason and regular season is all about proving himself worthy of a roster spot going forward.
Slayton joined the Giants as a fifth-round pick in 2019 and quickly built chemistry with Jones, who was also a rookie that season, once Jones became the starting quarterback. Though he finished fourth on the team in receptions, Slayton was the team leader in receiving yards, yards per reception and receiving touchdowns. That was in no small part thanks to his two games with over 120 receiving yards and three multi-score games.
After such a strong rookie season, Slayton looked like a steal as a fifth-round pick. It also seemed as if he had earned his spot as a cornerstone of the offense given how strong his chemistry was with his quarterback in the first year of both of their careers.
In his second season, that plan stayed mostly on track. Slayton started all but one game in 2020 and once again led the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He continued to show off his abilities as a deep-ball threat as well as great hands that had him consistently securing contested catches over the middle and on the sideline.
Though the Giants continued to struggle to win games, Slayton and his connection with Jones seemed to be the bright spot for the offense to build on going forward. Then, during the 2021 season, that bright spot faded.
New York made a big splash addition that offseason, bringing in former Lions receiver Kenny Golladay to give Jones more talent to throw to. For Slayton, that meant his starting job now belonged to the newcomer. After starting 15 games in 2020, the third-year receiver only got five starts in 2021, all coming when Golladay or Sterling Shepard were inactive.
Of course, that led to Slayton’s production declining. He put up career lows in targets, caught just 23 passes and finished with fewer than 350 receiving yards.
What was more disappointing than the lack of production was his decline in performance after his first two years. Put simply, Slayton just wasn’t the burner receiving threat downfield that he was in 2019 and 2020. His average depth of target was lower than in his first two seasons, he wasn’t racking up as many yards after the catch and worst of all, he was dropping passes more frequently. After just eight dropped passes in a much larger sample size in his first two seasons, Slayton dropped six—over 10% of his targets—in 2021.
Adding to the pressure of improving upon his lackluster 2021 season is Slayton’s added competition for targets. Not only will Golladay be back looking to improve on his disappointing season and Shepard returning from an Achilles injury, but second-year receiver Kadarius Toney is in line for a breakout season after showing flashes of potential in 2022. In addition, the Giants also drafted receiver Wan’Dale Robinson in April, only making the receivers room more crowded.
Slayton is at serious risk of being the odd man out in New York’s crowded receiving corps if he can’t return to being the receiver he was to begin his career. The pay raise he’s set to get for outperforming his draft slot doesn’t help his case, either.
During training camp and the regular season—should he avoid being cut—Slayton has to rekindle the spark in chemistry he and Jones had for their first two seasons. That means showing off his sure hands, speed and deep-threat ability once more.
Slayton can still carve out a role in the Giants’ offense as their deep-ball receiver that he’s been in the past, but he’ll need to do it quickly or New York’s other receivers will come for his job.
New York Giants
- Jun 21, 2022
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