New York Giants: What will Darius Slayton’s role be in 2021?

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

Those who expected big things from the New York Giants‘ offense in 2020 were left severely disappointed. The Giants averaged a putrid 17.5 points per game this past season. Entering the season, there was plenty of excitement surrounding the Giants’ offensive core.

Veterans like Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard were looking to grow in a new offensive scheme. Quarterback Daniel Jones was entering his second season, along with wide receiver Darius Slayton, with both players coming off of impressive rookie campaigns. But, unfortunately, one of these players did not make the strides forward that they were expected to.

Daniel Jones seemed to make progress in 2020. His statistics were not impressive, but many fans feel he took a step forward and played much better in the second half of the year. Daniel did have a huge grade jump from Pro Football Focus. In 2019, his overall grade was a 65.9. In 2020, his overall grade rose to a respectable 78.4.

Darius Slayton, however, did not take the same jump that was expected of him. After an impressive rookie season where Slayton found the end zone 8 times with 740 receiving yards, fans thought he could elevate to a new status. But, it was more of the same, maybe even a little less from Slayton in 2020. Darius totaled only 750 yards on 2 more receptions with only 3 total touchdowns.

Now, entering the 2021 NFL offseason, the Giants are looking for new playmakers. General manager Dave Gettleman promised at his post-season press conference that he would upgrade the offense. With this in mind, Darius Slayton’s role in 2021 seems clouded and needs definition.

What will Darius Slayton’s role be in 2021?

Many Giants fans had high hopes for Darius Slayton in 2020. They thought he could elevate to “WR1” status and become New York’s primary receiver. But as the season went on, fans’ opinions changed and they started to hope he would develop into a high-end WR2.

Now, entering this offseason, the Giants are looking for new wide receivers to add to the mix. This could push Slayton down to “WR3” or “WR4” status. But could a reduced role like that benefit the wide receiver as he enters his third season?

As a primary receiver in the Giants’ offense, Slayton struggled at times. Lining up against opposing defense’s best cornerbacks might have been a task too tall for Darius. But in 2021, if the Giants are able to add a new primary wide receiver, Slayton could reap the benefits of facing the opposing team’s second, third, or even fourth-best cornerbacks.

Against team’s with weak secondaries, Darius Slayton flashed his high-end play. For example, Big Play Slay had 8 receptions for 129 yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week Five. He also had a 93 yard receiving performance against Philadelphia in Week Ten.

Darius Slayton still had a couple of elite performances in 2020. But the consistency was lacking week-to-week. This could have been caused by injuries that bugged Slayton throughout the season. But looking ahead to 2021, if the Giants are able to add that new wide receiver they are searching for, they could see a new and improved Darius Slayton in a more refined role.

New York Giants: Darius Slayton’s stock dropping with every passing week

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

Entering the 2020 season, most believed the New York Giants‘ wide receiver Darius Slayton would make a significant jump. So far this season, Slayton has struggled to improve his route running and hands, completing just 52.2% of his attempted catches.

On the year, he has 729 yards and three touchdowns, down from his 2019 statistics, where he posted 740 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Giants’ offense has been struggling all year to get things going, and Darius hasn’t been the only disappointing player. Offensive playcalling has been lackluster from Jason Garrett, following a disappointing year from Pat Shurmur and his schematics.

Quarterback Daniel Jones has suffered through multiple injuries, including a pulled hamstring and left ankle issue, which has kept him out of two games this year so far. Against the Baltimore Ravens this past weekend, the Giants posted just 13 points, totaling 26 over the last three games. If there’s any indication of lackluster performance, it is that statistic. Jones has only thrown for nine touchdown passes this year, indicating poor efficiency in the red zone, but an uptick in running the football has been a major cause for his minimal production.

Who’s to blame for the New York Giants’ inept on offense?

Jason Garrett is to blame for most of the Giants’ issues, but we can’t forget about the playmakers and their inability to separate on routes. It seems as if their opponents know what is coming on any given play, just take a look at the clip below, as Slayton lines up in man coverage, and the cornerback brakes on the slant and nearly causes a turnover.

Whether it be Jones staring down his receivers and avoiding reads on the opposite side of the field, or Slayton’s poor sell on the route, things aren’t clicking. Slayton’s decreasing efficiency makes acquiring a wide receiver this upcoming off-season a necessity.

Whether it be a free agent or draft prospect, the Giants would benefit from adding an elite route runner to their receivers’ core. For example, let’s say they manage to grab Allen Robinson in free agency, pairing him with a dynamic slot receiver like Sterling Shepard, and deep threat like Slayton would completely open up the field.

With Saquon Barkley also expected to be back in 2021, the offense could be entirely different. However, it starts with the play calling and route concepts, which are criminally undeveloped and predictable.

Following back up on Slayton, I believe he’s lacking confidence, and when Jones is staring him down on slants and the only opportunities he gets downfield are in man-coverage and not exposing cover-2, his abilities are limited. It’s tough to say, but Shurmur actually utilized this offense more adequately, and he was bad from what we remember.

New York Giants: Wide receivers held offense back against Arizona

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants‘ winning streak came to an end on Sunday after a putrid offensive performance against the Arizona Cardinals. New York let up eight sacks and gained only 159 total yards of offense. Daniel Jones played through his hamstring injury and passed for only 127 yards before being pulled for backup Colt McCoy.

All game long, Daniel Jones was struggling to find open receivers to throw to. The Giants’ wide receivers could not separate from coverage on Sunday. They were completely outmatched and they have been for most of this season. The season is far from over, with the Giants only one game out of first place in the NFC East. However, it will be hard for the Giants to slip into the postseason if their receiving corps continues to play at this level.

The 2020 Giants wide receivers

The New York Giants starting wide receivers are Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate. Shepard has been with the Giants the longest but has been held back by injuries over the last few seasons. But now, seemingly fully healthy, Shepard has not opened up the offense the way he was expected to.

Golden Tate is in his second season with the New York Giants. He was signed to a lucrative contract last offseason. Since then, Tate has been in the spotlight for a few of the wrong reasons, such as a PED suspension and a public criticism of the Giants’ offense.

Darius Slayton is the Giants’ second-year wide receiver that was expected to have a breakout 2020 season. That has not happened, though, as Slayton has been entirely unreliable this season. In Week 10, Slayton had 5 receptions for 93 yards. He followed that up with a 0 reception performance in Week 11.

Inconsistency and injuries have held the Giants’ receiving corps back in 2020. But what has held them back the most is a simple lack of talent. Yes, Tate, Shepard, and Slayton are talented receiving options. But no, none of those guys are true number one wide receivers that open up an offense and allow the offense to run through them.

In Week 14, the Giants’ wide receivers failed to separate from coverage. According to Next Gen Stats, the league average receiver separation is 2.86 yards. Golden Tate’s average separation in Week 14 was 0.42 yards. Slayton’s average separation was 1.37 yards. Shepard’s average separation was 1.86 yards. The entirety of the Giants’ receiving corps was far below average on Sunday, making things incredibly difficult for quarterback Daniel Jones.

New York Giants’ Darius Slayton has disappeared as of late, what’s going on?

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

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.

“We 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,’’ receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said, per the NY Post. “It’s not like we’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.’’

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.

“All receivers feel like they’re always open and they want all the targets and all the catches and all the touchdowns, and when they don’t get it, some people, it affects some people more than others,’’ 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.

New York Giants: Is Darius Slayton trending toward WR1 status?

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

After a strong rookie season where New York Giants receiver Darius Slayton posted 740 yards and eight touchdowns, the expectation was that he would improve in 2020. Some even coined him a possible wide receiver one in the NFL, showing off stellar developments in his route running and catching ability.

Dating back to the beginning of his first rookie camp, Slayton was dropping passes at an astronomical rate, but he has solved that issue and is one of the more reliable receivers for the Giants this season. Through 10 games, Slayton has 584 yards and three scores, catching nearly 60% of balls thrown in his direction.

He is on pace for 934 yards receiving end five touchdowns, but Slayton doesn’t live and die off the deep ball anymore. He’s averaging more yards per game and the same yards per reception as last year, his rookie season. His ability to run more efficient slant routes and digs has helped quarterback Daniel Jones in the passing game.

Is Darius Slayton a WR1 for the New York Giants?

At this point in his career, Darius seems to be trending toward ‘great’ status, but I don’t think he will ever reach WR1. He simply doesn’t have the elite playmaking ability and consistent hands you would see in a player like Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins. He’s a more slender receiver at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, utilizing his agility and speed to get open.

That doesn’t mean he can’t be incredibly efficient alongside Sterling Shepard and potentially another pass catcher in 2021. The Giants could target free agents like Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay, who are bonafide top receivers and would bring a stellar presence to the offense.

Nonetheless, it is important to have secondary receivers that can perform exceptionally well on a weekly basis, and Slayton fits that bill perfectly. Not only has he developed into a much more refined route runner, but he pushes the defense and stretches the field, opening up the running game and play action.

Through 10 weeks, he has a 73.2 overall grade, tallying 30 first downs and four drops. Aside from the first two weeks of the season, Slayton has been solid when targeted in the passing game but is actually dropping the ball more than he did in his rookie season when he recorded just three.

I believe an uptick in targets might be the result, but he has proven to be a play-maker for the Giants and one they can rely on.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard key to offense’s success

New York Giants receiver, Sterling Shepard.

The New York Giants suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night. But the Giants’ offense had one of its best performances of the season in that game.

New York’s offense put together three touchdown drives, including one 15-play 75-yard scoring drive. That drive was capped off with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Shepard played his first game since Week Two as he has been recovering from a turf toe injury on injured reserve.

In his first game back from injury, Sterling Shepard was excellent and proved just how important he is to the Giants’ offense.

Sterling Shepard Week 7 Stats and Highlights

Sterling Shepard was the Giants’ leading receiver on Thursday night. He totaled 6 receptions for 59 yards and 1 touchdown on 8 targets.

The key to Shepard’s success is his route running. Sterling is by far the Giants’ best route runner. He is able to run elite routes to separate from defenders and get himself open against tight coverage. Shepard averaged an impressive 4.5 yards of separation according to Next Gen Stats.

Sterling Shepard’s consistent separation is crucial for the Giants’ offense. The rest of the team’s playmakers on offense often struggle to separate on their routes. Darius Slayton is only averaging 2.1 yards of separation and Golden Tate is averaging 2.7 yards.

The Giants’ offense severely missed having Sterling Shepard on the field. But now, with Shepard healthy and back in the starting lineup, the Giants’ passing attack should improve drastically. The Giants finally have a wide receiver who can get open consistently. Expect to see Sterling Shepard finish the 2020 NFL season strong for New York.

New York Giants: WR Darius Slayton emerging as a premier playmaker

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants‘ offense has been one of the worst in the NFL through five weeks of the 2020 NFL season. Daniel Jones and the offensive line have struggled to get the offense rolling this year. There has also been a slew of injuries and some questionable play calls within Jason Garrett’s offensive scheme.

The Giants’ offense has been held back by a variety of factors. But, in the darkness, there has been one glimmer of hope. Wide receiver Darius Slayton has been excellent, despite the offense’s struggles, and appears to be emerging as a premier playmaker in New York’s offense.

Darius Slayton 2020 Stats and Highlights

Daniel Jones and Darius Slayton are both competing in their second professional seasons. Jones was the Giants’ first-round pick in 2019 and Slayton was selected in the fifth round of the same draft. The two players developed special chemistry in their rookie season. So far, as sophomores, their chemistry seems to be even stronger than it was last year.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has struggled in 2020. He has thrown only 2 touchdown passes in five games compared to 8 turnovers in the same span. But Darius Slayton has been, by far, his most reliable receiving option and his biggest playmaker.

Darius Slayton has caught each of Daniel Jones’s two touchdown passes this season, both coming in Week One against the Steelers. He has also hauled in 23 receptions on 40 targets, totaling 365 yards.

Slayton is coming off of arguably the most impressive performance of his career in Week Five versus Dallas. In this heartbreaking loss, Slayton was phenomenal, totaling 129 yards on 8 receptions and 4 missed tackles. He was a threat before and after the catch. Slayton also had a 30+ yard receiving touchdown wiped away by a penalty in that game.

This Week Five performance earned Slayton a spot on Pro Football Focus’s Team of the Week. Slayton earned an elite 91.2 receiving grade against the Cowboys.

Entering Week Six, Slayton is primed to face off against the Washington Football Team. They too have a talented second-year wide receiver in Terry McLaurin. Giants fans are hoping to see their young wide receiver outplay the other and lead the Giants to their first win of the 2020 NFL season.

New York Giants: Darius Slayton still listed as limited on latest report

The New York Giants need all the weapons on offense they can get when they face Washington in their next game. The team is still hunting for their first win and is missing both Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley – and while Shepard is set to return to practice this week and was working out with trainers recently, he won’t be back in time for the Washington game.

Therefore, any more injuries on offense will put the Giants into an especially bad spot going into this game. Unfortunately, it looks like they still have to deal with one at an important spot. Wide receiver Darius Slayton was listed as injured on the team’s most recent injury report.

Top wide receiver in question

Slayton is participating in practice but thanks to a foot injury, that’s only limited participation. That’s not great news right now for the Giants because Slayton is by far their top receiver. Slayton not only has a pair of touchdowns but has significantly more receiving yards than the players that are behind him on the list – Evan Engram and Golden Tate. Thanks to his injury, Sterling Shepard only has 76 yards despite being projected as one of the receiving leaders.

Perhaps more importantly, Slayton possesses good chemistry with quarterback Daniel Jones. With Jones under enough pressure right now, the last thing he needs is having to play an upcoming game without his favorite target in the passing game.

Still, the fact that it’s only midweek rather than later in the week is a reason to have some hope in this case. There’s still time for Slayton to shed the limited designation and return to playing at full speed before the Giants take on Washington on Sunday.

But will the receiver be in top shape for that matchup given the injury trouble that’s present now? That’s something we might not know until the Giants take the field and look to avoid an 0-6 start.

Giants’ Passing Game Targets Shift with Barkley, Shepard Out

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants will be without running back Saquon Barkley (knee) for the remainder of the season and Sterling Shepard which will change the target/touches dynamic of their already challenged offense.

The Giants are the lowest scoring team (they have 29 points, one less than the Jets after two games) and now must figure out who will be their “go to” players going forward. Currently, wide receiver Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram lead the team in targets in the passing game with 15 apiece. That is likely to continue, as both players are two of the most attractive targets in the league at their respective positions, in the coming games.

But who else on the Giants’ offense could benefit?

Golden Tate returned last week after missing the opener against Pittsburgh with a hamstring issue. Tate caught all five of his targets for 47 yards last week against the Bears. You can expect this reliable veteran who has become a favorite of quarterback Daniel Jones to see an uptick in targets until Shepard returns.

Barkley had nine targets in the five and half quarters he played this year and was a key cog in the passing game. Luckily for the Giants they now have three backs who can all catch the football out of the backfield: Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman and Devonta Freeman. In the beginning, we will likely see more of Lewis and Gallman due to their familiarity with the offense but it is expected that Freeman will be asked to contribute more and more as the season unfolds. This should be interesting.

At the wide receiver position, the Giants aren’t very deep. After Slayton and Tate, there’s only Damion Ratley and C.J. Board. The team has decided to house four tight ends on the roster (Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson) instead. The Giants will need Board and Ratley to produce in three-wide sets and we just haven’t seen enough of either to predict how that is going to play out.

At tight end, only Smith can be relied on as a pass catcher behind Engram. He has become a favorite of Jones, especially in the red zone should the Giants ever get there again.

Do the New York Giants have a WR1 in Darius Slayton?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

When you compare New York Giants’ wide receiver Darius Slayton’s route chart to 2019, the majority of his action came in the deeper portion of the field. A lot of streaks and hooks are his bread and butter, but in week one of the 2020 regular season, he displayed immense maturity in his route tree.

Slayton finished the contest and the eventual loss of the Pittsburgh Steelers with six receptions, 102 yards, and two touchdowns. He has quickly become quarterback Daniel Jones‘s favorite target and continues to produce on a weekly basis. From the contest, his chart includes posts, hook routes, drag routes, and more. This is a noticeable development in his ability to expand and improve his skill set — a very positive sign for a receiver that was drafted in the 5th round last year.

The New York Giants have a budding star:

With options on the roster like Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram, some might think that more talented players would bury Slayton. Nonetheless, he has turned into a cemented option and potentially a WR1 for Jones in the passing game.

In 2019, Slayton earned a 57.1% catch rate over 14 games. So far, in one contest, he has a 66.7% catch rate and 11.3 yards per target. His sample size is much smaller, but he’s trending in the right direction for the Giants. Dating back to his week 17 performance, Slayton finished his 2019 campaign with 154 yards and two scores. A majority of his routes were deep boundary routes.

Interestingly, Slayton only ran five routes that weren’t beyond 20 yards downfield. On Monday night against the Steelers, he ran seven routes that didn’t go beyond 20 yards. That is a clear indication that they see him as a smooth route runner who has improved during the off-season. That is a huge sign for Jones and his wide receiver corps. If he can continue to produce and improve on his skill set, the Giants might be set on the outside for years to come.