Darius Slayton played in his first NFL game in Week 3 of the 2019 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - a game that the Giants won narrowly, 32-31. It wasn’t until two weeks later when the Giants played the Minnesota Vikings that Slayton hit his stride as he recorded four receptions for a team-leading 62 yards and one touchdown.
“The game just started to get progressively slower and slower for me from that point on,” Slayton said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio with hosts Alex Marvez and Hall of Famer Gil Brandt.
Slayton finished his 2019 campaign among the top five rookies in Giants history in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 48 grabs, 740 yards and 8 scores. He recorded two touchdowns in a single game three separate times last season, quickly becoming one of the Giants’ most productive receivers.
Slayton credits much of his first-year success to his teammates in the Giants receiving corps.
“Being around supportive veteran receivers like Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Bennie Fowler,” Slayton said. “All guys that as soon as I got in there, they tried to help me grow my game.
“Playing the game with more awareness, more savvy. Being young and fast, you want to sprint full speed at everything. But you have to play with a little more pace and patience.”
Slayton said that Tate especially became someone who he was able to learn a lot from by observing him every day in practice.
“He plays the game with such great awareness and savvy,” Slayton said. “I’m not there by any stretch of the imagination but hopefully after a few more years of playing with him, I’ll be able to get to that point.”
Playing for quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones also helped ease Slayton’s transition to the NFL. Slayton called Manning a “walking book.”
“You can ask him anything,” Slayton said. “Really humble guy. So any questions I had, he would always talk to me and answer my questions and helped simplify the playbook”
No longer a rookie, Slayton will begin to serve as a guide to new players coming in this season. He said that he is particularly excited about rookie cornerback Chris Williamson joining the team because he has known Williamson since the two were in elementary school when the two played against each other in football.
“I was on one of the greatest 9-year-old football teams ever assembled,” Slayton said. “We went undefeated. We played Chris’s team in the regular season and beat them. And we played them again in the championship, and we lost.”
“We were cheated,” Slayton joked.
Desipte no longer being a newcomer, Slayton will still have to make many adjustments this upcoming season in order to adjust to head coach Joe Judge’s coaching style and the offense of new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
“He always asks deep, insightful questions,” Slayton said of Judge. “He is really intelligent and has a business-like approach.”
And Slayton is all too familiar with mastering a new offense.
“They throw another dictionary at you and the new dictionary has some of the same words with different meanings,” Slayton said. “It’s like rookie year all over again.”
The uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced Slayton’s love of the game though as he welcomes the challenge of learning a new playbook with open arms.
“Sometimes when we’re grinding through practices and meetings and it feels like long days,” Slayton said. “You never miss something until it’s gone. Now, we’re all itching to get back on the field and compete, and get back to playing real football.”