New York Giants rolling into Chicago with depleted receiver corps

new york giants, kenny golladay

The New York Giants are almost done with their utterly disappointing 2021 season. Entering Week 17, the Giants sit at the bottom of the NFC East with a 4-11 record. The team will travel to Chicago to face the Bears in the second-to-last week of the season. The Giants, already eliminated from playoff contention, do not have much left for which to compete.

This could be a winnable game for the Giants, though, as the 5-10 Chicago Bears start backup quarterback Nick Foles on Sunday. The main storyline of this matchup for both teams will pertain to the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. The Giants own the Bears’ first-round pick in this year’s upcoming draft, so winning or losing to Chicago will affect New York’s draft value.

The Giants’ 4-11 record is disappointing and reflects the poor state of their roster, however, injuries played a big part in the downfall of the 2021 Giants. New York is the most injured team in the NFL this season. In Week 17, the Giants are rolling into Chicago with a completely depleted wide receiver corps.

Injuries at wide receiver

Kenny Golladay is the New York Giants’ only healthy starting wide receiver entering Week 17. This might be surprising considering the injury history that KenNYG has dealt with in the past, but in a year as wild as 2021, Golladay is the last man standing.

Kadarius Toney is OUT on Sunday with a shoulder injury. Darius Slayton is OUT after being replaced on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Sterling Shepard is on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. John Ross is OUT with a knee injury, as is Collin Johnson with a hamstring. Wide receiver CJ Board and Dante Pettis are also on injured reserve.

This leaves the New York Giants with a corps of the following players:

  • Kenny Golladay
  • Pharoh Cooper (Practice Squad)
  • Alex Bachman (Practice Squad)
  • David Sills (Practice Squad)
  • Travis Toivonen (Practice Squad)

An inexperienced and largely inadequate bunch of playmakers. Life will not be easy for the New York Giants on offense (as it never is). Thankfully, the season is almost at its end, leaving the Giants with a full offseason to get healthy and reset with plans to improve in 2022.

Should the Giants be entertaining trade calls for WR Darius Slayton?

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants will likely be active at the trade deadline this season, but where they might be trying to bring players in the past, they have a few pieces they can let go for capital in the future.

Both Evan Engram and Jabrill Peppers are in the fifth year of the rookie contracts, representing an opportunity for the Giants to move on and acquire draft capital for their services. Engram is an athletic tight end with unparalleled speed at the position, but he has trouble holding onto the football and allowing turnovers. Over the past four seasons, Engram has dropped 25 passes, including a drop and fumble over two weeks this season.

Peppers, on the other hand, has seen his snap count decrease this year as the Giants deploy Xavier McKinney more frequently in the free safety role. Peppers has had trouble in coverage against tight ends, a spot where they desperately needed him to improve.

The New York Giants have a deep WR core:

However, the emergence of receiver Kadarius Toney has made one pass-catcher expendable, and that is third-year player Darius Slayton.

With Sterling Shepard still under contract and Toney beginning to take the reins on offense, Slayton has found himself in a peculiar situation. Fellow speedster John Ross has returned from injury and looked fantastic against the New Orleans Saints last weekend, so Slayton will already be battling for snaps moving forward.

Over three games this year, he has caught seven passes for 127 yards and a score, catching 50% of his targets. Slayton, though, has already dropped three passes this year over just 14 targets, representing a 30% drop rate.

Given his struggles, the Giants might float the idea of treating him and potentially getting back draft capital since he’s outperformed his fifth-round selection back in 2019.

With Ross providing more refined route running and gadget utilities, Slayton’s snap count will likely decrease over the next few weeks, presenting the Giants with an opportunity. The argument against trading Slayton would be that Ross is on a one-year contract while the Auburn product still has another year left on his deal.

Do you think it is worth trading Darius Slayton at the deadline? Comment here!

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton limited on Wednesday

new york giants, sterling shepard

As the New York Giants head towards week 5, they’re still dealing with injury problems for some of their top offensive talents. The Giants were missing two notable receivers, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, against the New Orleans Saints. The hope is that the pair will make their return in week 5 when the Giants head to Dallas, but their status on the injury report shows they aren’t over their injuries just yet.

Neither Shepard nor Slayton participated in the team’s walkthrough and light practice on Wednesday.

With that being said, the situation isn’t all bad. While they didn’t participate with the rest of the team, they did work out separately and put in some work on a side field. Furthermore, Joe Judge was confident enough to publicly take an optimistic position on getting them back in time for the next game.

Shepard specifically is a major player on the offense whose presence or absence will likely have a large impact. As others struggled with injuries, Shepard came into the season as the top wide receiver and played in more than 90% of the Giants’ offensive snaps in their first two games.

The wide receiver duo aren’t the only ones on the injury list at the moment. Jabrill Peppers, Andrew Thomas, Leonard Williams and Kaden Smith also sat out practice on Wednesday.

The Cowboys are entering Sunday’s game as favorite by nearly a touchdown. It’s clear the Giants have a chance at beating them, after they showed a step up in their upset win over the Saints, but the health status of several players could make the task far tougher.

We saw John Ross step up in week 4 due to the injuries. It remains to be seen if a similar step up from a backup will be needed in week 5.

Giants Injury Report: Shepard, Slayton trending down, two receivers will take their reps

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants are heading into Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints down a few receivers. With Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both suffering hamstring injuries against the Atlanta Falcons last weekend, the Giants will have to roll with a few reserves.

Losing both takes a toll in different ways, as Shepard operates primarily out of the slot and Slayton is Daniel Jones’s top deep-threat receiver. Most would coin Kenny Golladay as Jones’s top long-range target, but that’s a conversation for another day and a scheme-related issue, thanks to coordinator Jason Garrett.

Shepard acts as a security blanket in the passing game, with his great route running in the short/intermediate ranges of the field. His most lethal routes include whip and slant concepts. It is unlikely that either will take the field against New Orleans, but let’s take a look at two other receivers who will pick up their share of the workload.

 

Two receivers who can pick up the slack for the New York Giants:

1.) Collin Johnson

Johnson was surprisingly effective against the Falcons, picking up five receptions on seven targets for 51 yards. Johnson is the tallest receiver in the NFL at 6’7″, providing a big target for Jones in the passing game. After being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants scooped him up as a reserve option, and he showed off his talents early in Week 3.

Considering how many times Jones targeted him in the passing game, I expect him to enjoy a fruitful number of reps against the Saints, even if the Giants do call up a reserve option like Dante Pettis.

2.) Kadarius Toney

Getting Kadarius Toney more involved is a necessity for Garrett, who has seldom used the 20th overall pick from the 2021 NFL draft this year. Toney recorded two catches last week against Atlanta, picking up 16 yards. He showed off his quick movements and agility with the ball in his hands, so designing a few creative plays around him would be ideal if the Giants want to get him involved. Toney is still working his way up as a route runner and receiver, but getting him into space is all the Giants need to do to maximize his talents.

New York Giants: Daniel Jones and Darius Slayton could have a special connection in 2021

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants signing Kenny Golladay shouldn’t deter quarterback Daniel Jones from curating a special connection with former fifth-round selection Darius Slayton out of Auburn. The past two seasons, Slayton has made a significant impact on a miserable offensive unit, recording more than 700 yards in each of his first two seasons.

Slayton is an intriguing talent, with blazing speed on vertical routes and the ability to blow the top off of defenses. While his average catch rate hovers around 55%, there’s plenty of untapped potential to realize with the 24-year-old receiver.

When considering Daniel Jones’s strengths, specifically when throwing the ball downfield, Slayton matches up perfectly with the future of the offense — indicated by the air-raid hire of Russ Callaway. The expectation is that Jason Garrett will devise a plan that focuses more on driving the ball downfield than playing West Coast style and littering the shorter portions with targets. While Jones will have plenty of security blankets in Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph, focusing on scoring points on game-breaking plays with Slayton and Golladay could be more of a focal point.

How did Slayton impact the New York Giants in 2020?

Last season, Slayton finished with 751 yards and three scores but was on pace for better before suffering a foot injury in Week 6 against Washington. After this contest, his numbers tapered off rather quickly after posting two 100+ yard performances in the first five weeks of the season.

Despite a small sample size, Jones finished as one of the most accurate downfield passers in the NFL last season. His targets 20+ yards accounted for less than 10% of his total attempts, but increasing that number with better receivers should prove to be a major factor in improved scoring and production next season. The Giants also went out and signed John Ross to provide blazing speed and the return of Saquon Barkley should command ample attention in the box.

Defenses were playing plenty of Cover-1 last year, certainly lacking respect for the Giants’ receivers, but the reality for this unit should be far different in 2021 with the acquisition of Golladay and a healthy Slayton/Saquon.

Of course, Darius still has a few kinks to iron out, including six dropped passes last year, a number he needs to alleviate if he wants to be considered a high-end WR2 at the NFL level. However, he was on pace for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns before the injury against Washington.

The Giants are going to have to spread the ball for more next season with the injection of more talent, but don’t count out Slayton and the connection he has with Jones, particularly with targets 20+ yards downfield.

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

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

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.

New York Giants: How Kadarius Toney pick influences Darius Slayton

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants are shaking things up at wide receiver this season. The team added both a new deep threat in Kenny Golladay and a promising draft pick in Kadarius Toney, and it’s certain that their on the field lineup at the position will look different compared to recent years.

For some of the existing players at receiver, that might be unsettling. After all, the newcomers are direct competition for the top performers from the last couple of seasons. However, head coach Joe Judge claims that the Giants aren’t planning to replace their current lineup of playmakers. At least, not yet.

Speaking to reporters after minicamp, Judge talked about the Giants drafting Kadarius Toney as well as how it will impact existing receiver Darius Slayton.

“I would say he’s a veteran player,” Judge said of Slayton. “He’s not in his first year, he’s got skin in the game right there. In terms of Darius, everyone is going to play to their strengths. Darius and Toney, will they be on the field at the same time, different packages, different positions at times, but I think everybody on the team affects the other by the way they work and how they produce.”

As Slayton and Toney are both coming into the season behind Golladay and likely Sterling Shepard on the depth chart, it looks like they’ll be in some kind of competition despite the insistence that they have different roles.

Judge also spoke about talking to Sterling Shepard, another player threatened by the addition of Toney. According to Judge, despite the headlines, the Giants also didn’t make the pick to replace Shepard.

“I thought it was necessary to talk to Shep specifically because when we drafted Toney the word in the press as he was reading those headlines was specifically he’s a slot receiver which, look, we are not bringing in someone to play one position. I thought it was relevant at the time to contact Shep out of respect for how he is with our program to communicate that with him,” Judge continued.

Clearing up misunderstandings like this is something that Judge claims to have done regularly – he also talked on the phone with Nate Solder after the Giants drafted Andrew Thomas. Though, the writing was still on the wall going forward and Thomas ended up taking over the starting role anyway as Solder opted out of the season.

At the end of the day, getting better isn’t an easy process for a team. For better players to come in, some players have to get displaced. That’s just the nature of the sport, and we have yet to see how that process is going to turn out for the Giants. It is, after all, inevitable for some players to lose their spot even if the coaches have the best of intentions.

New York Giants revamped their offense with sure-handed receivers in 2021

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants had one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2020. The Giants averaged a putrid 17.5 points per game this past season. New York lacked playmakers on offense once superstar running back Saquon Barkley went down for the season in Week 2.

In the passing game, the Giants severely lacked dependable weapons to haul in passes from Daniel Jones. In a pivotal sophomore season, Daniel Jones had 23 of his passes dropped in 2020. The Giants’ wide receivers were inconsistent and undependable. New York made it a point of emphasis to fix that in the 2021 offseason.

The Giants’ new dependable wide receiver corps

According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants had the second-highest rate of dropped passes last season. Tight end Evan Engram receives a lot of criticism for dropping 11 passes in 2020. However, he was not the only receiver that struggled to hold onto the football last season. Darius Slayton also dropped 6 passes. The Giants’ receivers also struggled to separate last season.

Golden Tate averaged only 2.1 yards of separation in 2020 (tied-fourth worst in the league). Darius Slayton’s separation at a 2.9-yard average was not much better. The Giants recognized a clear need to upgrade Daniel Jones’s offensive weapons and seized the opportunity to do so in the 2021 offseason.

The New York Giants made a splash in free agency this offseason when they landed the market’s top wide receiver, Kenny Golladay. The Giants landed a receiver that is as dependable as they come. Kenny Golladay has the second-highest contested catch rate in the NFL since 2018 (PFF). Daniel Jones now has his big-body “go up and get it” outside receiver with Kenny G.

With their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Giants got another sure-handed receiver. Kadarius Toney had only 3 career drops on 123 catchable passes during his time at the University of Florida (PFF). Toney fills a huge YAC need for the Giants, but also brings some dependability to the offense, too.

The Giants’ third big receiving acquisition this offseason was tight end Kyle Rudolph. Evan Engram struggled to hold onto the ball as New York’s starting tight end in 2020, so the Giants went out and got the most sure-handed and dependable tight end in football to help him out. Kyle Rudolph has recorded zero drops on 90 targets the past two seasons (PFF).

The New York Giants now have consistency and dependability on offense. Daniel Jones will enjoy throwing to sure-handed receivers as he attempts to establish himself as a franchise quarterback in his third season.

New York Giants rated as second most improved receiving corps

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants came into this offseason with receivers as a large need, but that was mostly addressed through the draft and free agency. In free agency, of course, the team made the big name signing of Kenny Golladay to add a receiver that may very well finish in the top 10 statistically. And in the draft, they added a further weapon with first round pick Kadarius Toney after trading down.

Those improvements earned them the title of second most improved receiving corps by PFF. The only team rated higher happens to be the Giants’ neighbor, the Jets.

The Giants followed that splash free-agent signing by spending their first-round pick on another wide receiver. Per Zack Rosenblatt, Toney said that he models his game after Alvin Kamara, and like Kamara, his after-the-catch ability is rare. That’s something New York needed to add at wide receiver. The Giants’ wide receivers averaged 3.0 yards after the catch per reception in 2020, dead last in the NFL. Toney should help turn that number around.

The article by PFF mentions how Golladay and Toney aren’t the only additions. The Giants also added Kyle Rudolph, and while the signing has been almost forgotten since the start of the offseason, they also brought in 2017 top 10 pick John Ross.

A deep receiving group

Depth isn’t usually associated with the Giants receiving corps in recent years but the organization really does have a deep group this year. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are the top performers from the last couple of seasons, and they both return this year.

With the addition of Golladay as well as Toney, it’s easy to imagine Shepard and Slayton being able to work more effectively. Opposing defenses will be forced to focus on more than just them, and the Giants now have multiple receiving tight ends in Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph.

The pressure will be on for Daniel Jones now that he has more weapons than ever, but ultimately, the Giants have done about as good a job as possible at setting him up to win in 2021.

New York Giants: Drafting Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith only makes Darius Slayton better

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants are pondering who to select with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. An argument has risen on Giants Twitter based on the team’s reported interest in top prospects. Fans are debating, should the Giants take one of the draft’s top wide receivers or one of the draft’s top cornerbacks?

One of the arguments against drafting a wide receiver with the eleventh overall pick is that the Giants already have a competent receiving corps. New York signed Kenny Golladay as its top receiving option this offseason. Opposite of him will be Darius Slayton in his third season. The dependable Sterling Shepard will move back into the slot.

On paper, that is a solid receiving trio. Behind the top three are a couple of quality depth options in John Ross and Dante Pettis. Fans are arguing that Darius Slayton is a quality secondary outside receiver, which is why the Giants should address a different position of need with their first draft pick. However, I will make a counterargument. Drafting an elite wide receiver talent at eleven overall will serve to maximize Darius Slayton’s talents and give Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense all the tools possible to find success in 2021.

How Darius Slayton benefits from the Giants going receiver at eleven

There are two elite wide receiver talents that the Giants are reportedly interested in at eleven overall. Alabam wideouts Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Devonta Smith was this year’s Heisman Trophy winner and is an elite talent that shattered records in 2020 at Alabama. Jaylen Waddle is considered by some to be the best wide receiver in this year’s draft class thanks to his game-breaking speed and rare athletic traits.

Darius Slayton is currently projected to be the Giants’ number two receiving option as their “Z” receiver. If the Giants were to draft Waddle or Smith, they would move into that number two role opposite of Golladay while Shepard continues to hold down the slot. This means Darius Slayton would fall to number four on the Giants’ receiver list.

Some view that as a negative for Big Play Slay. I think that this influx of additional receiver talent would benefit Darius Slayton and the Giants’ offense as a whole. Having four talented, starting-level receivers on the roster would allow the Giants to run more 14-personnel and four or five receiver sets. This would stretch opposing defenses’ secondaries thin, forcing a team’s fourth-string cornerback to be tasked with guarding Darius Slayton, a potential WR2 on some teams.

It is difficult to find depth at the cornerback position, similarly to wide receiver. But the pick of a wide receiver at eleven would give the Giants tremendous depth at the position to roast opposing secondaries lacking cornerback depth. Darius Slayton is likely talented enough to toast most fourth-string cornerbacks in the NFL on a play-by-play basis.

How Daniel Jones benefits, too

Additionally, having so much wide receiver talent on the roster and on the field at the same time makes life a whole lot easier for Daniel Jones. The Giants’ receivers struggled to gain separation and make plays for Jones in 2020. With such an influx in talent in 2021, that problem would dissipate and Daniel Jones would enjoy slinging the rock to a group of playmakers that could outmatch nearly any secondary in the NFL.