The New York Giants took the divide-and-conquer approach to their receiver room this offseason. They did not add a big name but instead stocked up on their depth. Tight end Darren Waller was their biggest nod toward adding a star, as he has lined up in the slot fairly often in the past.
Darius Slayton is one of the holdovers from last season’s shallow group. After he was a rumored trade candidate in the 2022 offseason, he did not play in Week 1 and saw no targets in Weeks 2 and 3 with just two in Week 4. In his remaining 12 games of the regular season, though (not including Week 18), he averaged 3.75 receptions and 59.4 yards per game. Translated over a full 17-game tilt, that would mean 64 receptions and 1,010 yards. Once Slayton became integrated into the offense, he made a big difference.
Slayton was asked if he receives less recognition than he deserves for having led the Giants in receiving yards in three out of the last four seasons. He answered that he’s had the opportunity to play with teammates like Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard, which spread the wealth around a little more. Still, he asserted, “I wouldn’t say it bothers me because everybody doesn’t know what I know. Everybody is not in the Giants’ building.”
Still, Slayton has a lot of confidence. “I believe in myself. I believe in my ability. I believe in the work I put in the offseason,” he declared. “Whether we add 10 guys, whether we add all of you guys, I believe I’ll find my way on the field.”
Unlike other players who might have sought to leave in free agency, Slayton chose to remain with the Giants. He explained that there was initially some limbo with Daniel Jones’ contract situation, but once Jones was locked up, it made sense for him to come back due to their chemistry. He also stated that he enjoys playing for the franchise, and he believes he and other players came back because they had a winning outfit last season.
Still, while he was a free agent, Slayton was vocal in defending the Giants against accusations that they were offending Jones during the contract negotiations. He indicated that his usage of “we” in his tweets was subconscious, a nod to the fact that the Giants and Jones are the only team and quarterback he knows.
Slayton’s 4.39 speed is somewhat underrated at times. However, he is aware of exactly how fast he is; when asked who takes the speed crown between him and Jalin Hyatt, Slayton responded, “It has to be me. Love him, great kid, but it has to be me.” He commented that he likes watching other speed guys, as well, and it has been fun to watch Parris Campbell (4.31), Jeff Smith (4.36), and Hyatt (4.40) fly around. He particularly enjoyed watching Hyatt torch Alabama for five touchdowns, as the Crimson Tide are the primary rival of Slayton’s alma mater, Auburn.
The Giants and Jones have been actively working on deeper passes so far this offseason. Slayton confirmed that the team knew they needed more of an emphasis on explosive plays heading out of last season. “We have all these guys, like having a bunch of Ferraris, keep them in the garage; take them out to the track,” he said. “I think that’s kind of been the mindset and maybe why you see a little more of the ball going down the field.”
Slayton elaborated that the explosiveness will change the dynamic against an opponent, giving the Giants an advantage. “They don’t know where it’s coming from. You’ve got me or Jalin or Parris or any of our guys. Darren (Waller) is huge but can fly. It’s like you’ve got all these guys flying at you; you’ve got to guard somebody.”
Continuing his earlier comments about Hyatt, Slayton expressed that the rookie’s speed has impressed him. He also praised Hyatt’s talent, though, including the way Hyatt runs routes and catches the ball. Slayton hasn’t seen any more mistakes than normal from the Giants’ third-round pick, though he did note that the offense is tough.
About Waller, Slayton joked that he tries to stay away from his new teammate during receiver drills so that he doesn’t appear small in the pictures by comparison. He pointed to Waller as a prototypical NFL tight end: big, fast, and able to catch.
Besides the significant speed element in the room, though, Slayton acknowledged that the bigger receivers are also important. He called Isaiah Hodgins, Collin Johnson, and Waller good changeups to beat opponents up. Slayton also cited Barkley and the running backs as diverse threats who can help open space and create mismatches for the faster receivers.
Despite all the additions to the Giants’ receiving corps, Slayton will continue to play a key role in the offense. His connection with Jones is one of the strongest on the team. With the new weapons in place, it’s possible that Slayton will thrive even more in 2023.