New York Giants: Why Darius Slayton is primed for a big 2021 season

New York Giants, Darius Slayton
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) rushes in the first half against the Washington Football Team at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Rutherford. Nyg Vs Was

The New York Giants were expecting big things from second-year receiver Darius Slayton in 2020, but unfortunately, a variety of factors influenced his performance. Slayton finished the season with 751 yards and three touchdowns, playing in all 16 games despite battling injury during the second half of the season.

His 52.1% catch rate is a bit lower than he would’ve hoped, but the Giants still anticipate a bounce-back year; he will continue to be a focal point as a vertical threat. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw 20+ yards downfield on fewer than 10% of his attempts last year, but ranked as one of the most accurate downfield passers, despite the small sample size. Slayton is one of the major reasons he’s had success in that category, with blazing speed and the ability to blow the top off of defenses.

To add to Slayton‘s statistical output, one negative that stands out is his drops, having recorded six last season. While that number needs to decrease moving forward, Slayton performed well during the first half of the year before suffering a foot injury against Washington in Week 6. He was on pace for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns before the injury on a touchdown pass from Jones.

The Giants didn’t hesitate to inject more playmakers for Jones this off-season, though, which could present an opportunity for alternate options to battle Slayton for starting reps. The acquisition of John Ross, a speedster with the ability to take defenders out of the box and put them in the deep secondary, has a similar style of play to Slayton.

While Ross offers more gadget utility compared to the Auburn product, they will be fighting for playing time this upcoming year, as both represent deep threats on the outside. Kenny Golladay will obviously have one of the starting spots locked down, and providing competition in the current WR core will only bring out the best in the current players.

The New York Giants should expect a better version of Darius post-injury and with more weapons:

Slayton has improved his route running over the past two years, beginning to incorporate dig-routes and timing options for Jones, rather than just a speed threat on 9-routes. In addition, the Giants tried to move Slayton around to a degree last year, as he played 151 total snaps in a slot and 724 out wide. Bunching the receivers can create confusion in the secondary, as well as executing rub-routes to curate separation. Unfortunately, the Giants ranked last in the league in separation yards last year, with only Sterling Shepard reaching an NFL average of 3.0.

Hopefully, the attention that Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, and Kadarius Toney demand will open up the field for Slayton in single coverage on the outside. He was forced to take on top corners last year, which obviously presented mismatches. Facing off against lesser competition should allow Slayton to take advantage, and as long as the offensive line can hold up and give Daniel Jones time in the pocket, we should see his production level out to a more efficient output.