Sometimes it’s not such a good idea to draw a conclusion on a first impression.
Take, for instance, Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton. When he arrived with the rest of the 2019 rookie class in May, Slayton had a debut practice to forget as he couldn’t catch a pass.
Pushing that first impression aside, the fifth-round pick out of Auburn started to show that not only could he catch the ball, he could also do something with it in his hands. Slayton and his unofficially clocked 4.39 40-yard dash speed from the NFL combine began to inspire hope that he could be a receiver capable of slicing the top off a defense.
That is until a hamstring injury suffered early in training camp reared its ugly head. But even as it looked as though Slayton was facing a lost season, he stayed the course, listened to the trainers and his body, and was a patient enough in his rehab to where he was able to make his NFL debut.
And what a debut. The 6-foot-1, 194- receiver debuted in Week 3, along with quarterback Daniel Jones, the same guy who has been throwing to him since that rookie minicamp and through the summer, and in that win over the Bucs, Jones and Slayton connected for 82 yards on three receptions.
“He’s a really good player, and you’re able to see all the different things he can do on the field,” Jones said Wednesday.
“So, I think he’ll continue to step up and make plays, and I’ve just got to make sure to get him the ball. I think he’s done a really good job so far.”
The good news is Slayton has gotten better each week. His 27 receptions are third on the team while his 394 yards are fourth on the team, behind tight end Engram (467) and fellow receiver Golden Tate (417).
“Just confidence, and (knowing) the plays,” Slaton said when asked where he’s seen the most significant growth in his rookie campaign.
“You learn every week. I’m coming to learn that in the NFL, you learn something new every week. Just confidence in my ability and the offense.”
Slayton has certainly given Jones and head coach Pat Shurmur more and more reasons to call his number on plays. Per Pro Football Focus, the rookie receiver has a team-best 121.7 rating when targeted (minimum pass targets 30).
For that, Slayton points to the growing chemistry he has with Jones.
“There is nothing like game experience,” he said. “Getting out there and playing against NFL competition, I think (the chemistry) has grown a lot.”
Slayton’s five touchdown receptions also lead the team in both rushing and receiving by a large margin.
In fact, according to Inside Edge, he’s averaged a touchdown every 4.8 receptions (five touchdowns on 24 receptions) since week 4 of 2019 – the second-best rate of 67 qualified receivers (league average is 14.2).
“It’s exciting,” he said of the opportunity to be a more significant part of the offense. “Obviously, you want your quarterback to have a lot of faith in you as a receiver. I think that’s how you build a rapport with quarterbacks.
“Every time the ball leaves their hand, making sure it gets completed. I think that helps them have confidence in us. We know they are going to put the ball there, so at the end of the day, it’s on our end.”
Two weeks ago against the Jets, Slayton had his best game as a pro, catching ten balls for 121 yards and two touchdowns, one of which went for 39 yards--all career bests.
“(Daniel Jones) makes it easy, making a lot of good timing throws,” Slayton said of his breakout game. “Two, just continuing to work on my craft, continue to work on my routes, work on my hands, getting separation, and even in tight windows making strong catches.”
With each reception he makes against top NFL competition, Slayton said his confidence has solidified.
“Not so much I’ve arrived, but more so I can do this,” he said when asked if he feels his play of late means he’s arrived.
“I can compete with some of the best in the game, and I just want to continue to show that throughout the rest of the season.”