Darius Slayton, Giants receivers ready to finish playoff push with chips on their shoulders


Darius Slayton was inactive for the Giants in Week 1, buried down a wide receiver depth chart that included Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, and Kenny Golladay ostensibly at the top and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson penciled in to be a big weapon.

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Almost four months later, Toney is in Kansas City, Shepard and Robinson are on injured reserve, Golladay is a non-factor…and Slayton is the team’s leading receiver with 710 yards.

“I think it just shows I love ball. I feel like a lot of people probably that might've been in my predicament might've gotten down or stopped maybe giving effort or not trying to get themselves out of that predicament. But I truly love playing football,” Slayton said Tuesday. “So, even though I was inactive in Week 1, I didn't want that to be my predicament. But as long as I got my health and I can play ball and I can go out there and practice, I believe in myself. And I believe in my ability.”

The Giants’ offense has evolved over the season, but to Slayton, its evolution is more about the talent than the system, and the current group has had plenty of time to gel.

“To be honest, it's changed so much as far as the people, some of the things we try to do now that maybe we weren't doing earlier. It's been a lot of movement, but I think we found a way to put the pieces together and get some continuity going and get some rhythm going,” he said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

The three leading receivers heading into Week 17 aren’t Golladay, Toney, and Shepard as expected, rather Slayton, Richie James, and scrap heap pickup Isaiah Hodgins – a former starter and two guys who have long been role-players, special teamers, or practice squadders in their career, but now are on their own paths to redemption as the Giants close in on the playoffs.

“I think everybody in our room has the ability; everybody in our room has talent. This league's really just about waiting for your opportunity and when you get your opportunity, capitalizing on it,” Slayton said. “I think that's kind of the guys that we have playing for us right now, that's the type of guys that we are – people that might not have had as many opportunities that we would've liked to have in the past, but now they're getting them, they're taking advantage of them, and that's what this league is all about.”

Hodgins, especially, is a big story, as he joined the team midseason – but as he was familiar with Brian Daboll’s offense from his time in Buffalo, he quickly jumped in and contributed, culminating in eight catches on 11 targets for 89 yards against Minnesota.

“He’s been very consistent for us. He's done a great job moving the sticks,” Slayton said of Hodgins. “I think it's him being very familiar with the system. It's now his fourth year, so almost to some degree, he has a leg up on pretty much all of us in our first year in it. He understands the ins and outs and what the coaches are looking for in certain looks and things like that. So, I think all of those things help him to accelerate his chemistry.”

And, he’s shown the toughness that the Giants need opposite speedsters like James and Slayton.

“He's a little bit bigger-bodied of a guy. And he does a good job of making contested catches, making catches in the middle of the field – that type of deal,” Slayton said. “But as he showed the other day, he hit Patrick Peterson with a double move, and he got down the field a little bit, too. Sometimes, he tends to maybe overthink his speed a little bit, but he can run. So, he's been a good addition to our team and I'm glad to have him.”

As they enter Week 17, the Giants’ offense is proof that sometimes, in the right system, things blossom – especially when you have a group that all have chips on their shoulders.

“It just goes to show you that in this league, there’s so much movement you never know what's going to happen, so you just always have to be read,” Slayton said. “.No doubt, I think we all have something to prove. I don't think that we've proven whatever it is that we've got to prove yet. We still got to do more. So, it's definitely not a time for any of us to get complacent. I think like I said, we've done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities that we've gotten, and hopefully, we continue to get them.”

The one difference for Slayton is that after restructuring his contract, Slayton is a free agent to be after this season, and wants to continue to make the most of a second chance he wasn’t sure would ever come – but more so for the playoff push, not his future.

“I haven't thought about it too much. It's hard to project because it's like kind of once you get into the season, there's such a rhythm to it. You go to practice; you're preparing for the next opponent. Then boom – you look up, and it's game day,” Slayton said. “I kind of just been trying to make sure I perform to the best of my ability and like I said earlier, those things tend to work themselves out as long as you perform well.”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN

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