Darius Slayton, Julian Love, and Kaden Smith will all have much bigger roles with the New York Giants at the start of the 2020 season.
The NFL free-agent frenzy has officially commenced. Teams are signing players and making trades to improve their roster for whenever team activities come along.
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has been very active this past week. He gave David Mayo a contract extension, franchise-tagged Leonard Williams, and signed free agents James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, Cam Fleming, and Nate Ebner.
Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge will continue to add pieces this offseason, but much of the Giants’ 2020 success will be based on players that were already on this young roster.
Three of those individuals began to emerge in the second half of last season. Thus, they’ll have more significant roles with the team at the start of the 2020 campaign.
For this list, we’ll exclude Daniel Jones. He’ll obviously enter the season the undisputed starter in his sophomore campaign.
WR Darius Slayton
Entering last season, it was unknown how much time fifth-round pick Darius Slayton would see on the field. But due to Sterling Shepard’s concussions and Golden Tate’s four-game suspension to start the year, Slayton was thrust into more playing time than expected.
Thanks to his hard work and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert’s mentorship, Slayton would become one of the best rookie receivers in the league.
In 14 games, he recorded 48 receptions and led the Giants in receiving yards (740). His eight touchdown receptions were tied for the most in the NFC East with Cowboys wideout Amari Cooper.
He’s clearly established himself as the big-play threat in Big Blue’s passing game. Slayton is poised to hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark if he can play a full season. The Giants and their fans are hopeful he, Jones, and Saquon Barkley can be a productive triple threat and lead this offense to success for years to come.
DB Julian Love
One of the strange occurrences in 2019 was the fact that rookie defensive back Julian Love wasn’t earning more playing time despite the apparent struggles of the Giants secondary. Gettleman took Love in the fourth round (No. 108 overall) in large part because he can play both the corner and safety spots.
When he finally received some significant playing time in the Giants’ Week 12 loss to the Chicago Bears, Love came away with his first career interception.
The former Notre Dame standout fits what coach Judge wants in his players, and that’s a versatile athlete who can keep opponents guessing. With the Giants parting ways with Antoine Bethea this week, Love may very well start at either the free safety or slot corner positions in 2020.
TE Kaden Smith
When a foot injury sidelined Evan Engram for the final seven games of the 2019 campaign, Kaden Smith stepped in and was a reliable target for Jones. He finished the year with 31 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
He excelled in the final two games of the season against the Redskins and Eagles, combining for 14 catches, 133 yards, and two scores. This includes a three-yard game-winning touchdown in the Giants’ 41-35 Week 16 victory over Washington.
The Giants added tight end Levine Toilolo in free agency and Engram is expected to fully recover by the time training camp starts. Unless the Giants add another tight end in the draft, Smith will enter camp in the No. 2 slot on the depth chart.
Newly hired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett loves to run formations that include a pair of tight ends. This may lead to Smith becoming a key part of the team’s air attack at the start of the season.