The New York Giants should work on featuring Darius Slayton more in the offense as they look towards 2020.
The New York Giants are not a playoff team in 2019, despite their questionable trade with the New York Jets for Leonard Williams. However, in the NFL, turnarounds can happen within a year, so the focus should be on building a contender in 2020.
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones took over from Eli Manning earlier than originally planned. He has two good underneath receivers in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, as well as stud running back Saquon Barkley.
The team also has rookie fifth-round pick Darius Slayton, who has shown flashes as a potential downfield threat. That’s a role that the team needs to fill, and Slayton has the ability to do so. For the remaining eight games the team plays this season, they need to feature Slayton as a major part of their offensive gameplan.
Slayton has an impressive 16.7 yards per reception, with 12 of his 16 catches going for first downs, and three touchdowns. He doesn’t run a full route tree yet, but his top-end speed will open up space underneath for Shepard and Tate.
However, being a downfield threat is more than just speed. Players need to make contested catches, which is a skill Slayton has also shown. On Sunday he made a very nice touchdown catch through Detroit Lions cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
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Slayton got the ball with the corner’s hand in his face and held it to the ground for six points. He’s still inconsistent, as the drops that hurt his draft stock have occasionally been an issue. He had one particularly brutal drop on a crossing route late in Sunday’s game.
However, those drops are part of the reason that the team should work at getting targets to Slayton. While practice reps are important and catching passes off the JUGS machine will help, receivers also need live repetitions in order to work through drop issues.
There will be frustrating drops this season with Slayton, but the team can afford to be patient with him. A drop might cost them some points this season, but the team isn’t going anywhere, so development is more important than results. Gaining experience, while playing through mistakes, will be valuable to the young receiver going forward.
The Giants also need to see if Slayton is ready to be the guy next year. He has impressed his teammates, but it still remains to be seen if he can do it every play. The only way to discover that is to work him consistent throws.
In the six games he’s played, Slayton has seen five, two, five, eight, two, and five targets. While some variance in targets is to be expected, if the team really wants to figure out what kind of player he is, he has to see consistent targets.
Head coach Pat Shurmur should be trying to scheme up around six to eight targets in each game for Slayton, with a few more going his way should he find a rhythm with Jones.
Target shares are decided by who is shaking defenders and the overall flow of the game, but with Slayton’s speed and ability there shouldn’t be an issue getting him those targets most weeks.
If the team does that, they’ll have a great sense of what Slayton can give them next season.