When attributing the word “polarizing” to a player, you might think of New York Giants tight end Evan Engram due to his play-making ability but odd trend of turnover-worthy mistakes. There’s another player who fits the mold of “polarizing,” and his name is Darius Slayton.
The Giants’ speedy wide receiver was considered a possible WR1 candidate entering the season and backed up that sentiment with 102 yards and two touchdowns in week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since then, Slayton’s influence has gradually fallen off, as he hauled in his one catch for 14 yards against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.
In fact, the former Auburn star has battled a lack of targets, among other things, in his fall-off. Against Cincinnati, quarterback Daniel Jones lofted a 50-yard pass downfield to Slayton, who was visibly hobbled and lacked the breakaway speed we usually encounter when called to action. The drop was a direct result of nagging injuries and early contact by the corner, limiting him to 113 yards over the past four weeks.
The New York Giants WR has struggled lately:
The second-year wideout hasn’t scored since week 6, and before that, week 1 was his last time in the end-zone. The Giants have desperately missed his down-field ability, settling into a run-first game-plan that has paid off exponentially. The Giants have enjoyed four consecutive games with 140+ rushing yards, a stellar feat that has propelled them into the top five in rushing-attack the last four weeks.
An improvement in the offensive line and running game has undoubtedly stolen targets from Slayton, which isn’t a bad thing, but he’s been utilized more as a decoy than star pass-catcher downfield.
â€œWe call our offense based on what gives us the best possible chance to win and there have been some instances where Slayton has been open and there are some other guys open as well, so we go to other guys,â€™â€™ receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said, per the NY Post. â€œItâ€™s not like weâ€™re not trying to get him the ball. I know it looks that way on the outside, but no. Slayton is a very important part of our passing offense.â€™â€™
Slayton has been dealing with a slight ankle sprain, battling through it on a weekly basis. However, the more pressing issue is the lack of targets and desire from receivers to have the ball thrown their way.
â€œAll receivers feel like theyâ€™re always open and they want all the targets and all the catches and all the touchdowns, and when they donâ€™t get it, some people, it affects some people more than others,â€™â€™ Tolbert said.
Moving forward, I wouldn’t expect Darius to be a fantasy-booming receiver for Big Blue, but rather a complimentary piece to the running game, which is a good thing. Running the football well keeps the defense off the field and time of possession in favor of the Giants. Extending the field with his speed and solid run-blocking abilities make him an asset whether or not he’s being targeted in the passing game.