A year ago, New York Giants receiver Darius Slayton was inactive Week 1, having been ignominiously forced to take a pay cut. Now, heading into Week 1 of the 2023 season, he is essentially the Giants’ No. 1 receiver. It’s been a roller coaster of sorts for Slayton, who put up at least 48 receptions and 740 yards in his first two seasons in the NFL, only to fall to just 26 catches for 339 yards in Year 3. Sans that first game in 2022, Slayton recorded 46 catches, 724 yards, and two scores for the season.
Things are different this time for Slayton.
“Yeah, I think I’m in a positive place, and I think I’ve put together a strong camp. I worked really hard this offseason to better myself in any way or shape and form I can, and I plan to try to display that to the best of my ability this season,” he said.
Slayton acknowledged that he dealt with adversity last season. Still, he qualified that it isn’t the first nor the last time that he will deal with such a situation, though he hopes it won’t happen again in football. He added, “I’m just happy I’m on the other side of it now, and it’ll be a good life experience going forward.”
Last week, head coach Brian Daboll lauded Slayton’s fortitude.
“I’ve been very pleased with Slay. A true pro. Dealt with some adversity when we were first here, obviously in training camp and then in the early part of the season,” Daboll said. “[He’s] had nothing but a great, positive attitude, team-first player, has had a good training camp for us.”
On the Giants’ locker room and his role
“Anytime you add new personalities, fresh faces there’s going to be a little bit of change in the dynamic of the locker room, but it’s been positive,” Slayton said. “Everybody that we’ve had come in I’d say is a good dude, has been personable, has meshed well with the guys that we already have here.”
Despite his youth, Slayton is one of the veterans on the team, entering his fifth season with the Giants. He said that the younger players often ask him “from where to live and to where to eat, and how to do these – what are they called? The little side turns.”
From a football perspective, Slayton does his best to help the players acclimate to the Giants’ system.
“I just try to help them; our system is very wordy,” he admitted. “Just helping them in any way (and) try to give them tips and pointers, because we were in the same boat last year when (head coach Brian Daboll) Dabs first got here. Even though we were veteran players, you’re learning a whole new system, so I just do my best to help them [in] any way, shape, or form I can.”
Slayton praised the younger players in the locker room, calling them “young, smart guys” who are “easy students to help.” He also affirmed fellow wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins’ role in teaching Daboll’s system.
“Technically, he’s been in it longer than any of us,” Slayton said. “He can kind of give, sometimes there’s things that change that is new to us, that he’s like ‘well no, we used to do it this way anyways’, so he helps give some insight on those types of things for sure.”
On leading the Giants in receiving yards
For all his struggles in 2021 and heading into 2022, Slayton has still led the Giants in receiving yards in three out of the last four seasons (2021 was the lone outlier). He was asked if that title would mean even more to him now given the upgraded talent in the pass-catching corps.
“I don’t know if it would mean any more than it has in the past. I think my approach is just to make plays when the ball comes my way,” Slayton said. “I don’t really look at [it] as ‘okay, there is better guys here than there were before, so now if I do this it’s more impressive’ or anything like that. I think it’s just my job to go out there and make plays, and I do my best to do that every Sunday.”
Would having a 1,000-yard season mean anything to him?
“I think every receiver would love to be able to say, one day when I retire, I’m old and my knees don’t work anymore, you know I can tell my kids I had a 1,000-yard NFL season at one point,” he said. “It’s a nice benchmark to have, but obviously, to get there you got to start with game one first, so I just take it one week, one day at a time.”
On not being named a team captain
Slayton wouldn’t call it disappointing that he wasn’t named a team captain.
“At the end of the day, it’s something that’s voted as a team, and I think that all the guys that we have that were elected as captains, deserve to be captains,” he said.
“I can’t really say that I was necessarily disappointed... I try to lead in whatever way I can, and you know, if my teammates ever feel the need to vote me in another year or something like that, I’ll be grateful to accept that.”
On the approach during game week
Slayton was asked how a player’s approach changes during game week and what he tells the younger players. He pointed to a different level of urgency and attention to detail.
“When a game comes you can’t have small miscues and things like that against good teams in this league and expect to win,” he said. “That’s probably the main thing that I try to impress upon them is that this is a different level of intensity, different level of urgency, and you have got to focus, and be on top of your assignments and be ready for the game.”
With Dallas on tap for Week 1, it’s unlikely that any player needs to be told twice to ramp up the intensity. Soon enough, we’ll see if that translates onto the field.