Darius Slayton poised to become even greater Giants threat

There was no one anywhere near Darius Slayton when he sat down for his Zoom call on Wednesday … and he kept his mask on anyway.

“Honestly at this point, we wear it every day — it’s habit,” Slayton said. “I just wear it all the way around ’cause we have to wear it in the building anyway so … just a habit.”

Slayton made a habit of unmasking defensive backs as a rookie last season, had them muttering to themselves, “Who was that masked man?” anytime he blew by them as Daniel Jones’ deep threat.

You don’t count Saquon Barkley because he was the second-overall pick of the 2018 draft, and you don’t count Jones because he was the sixth-overall pick of the 2019 draft, so that would automatically make Slayton the best single pick of the Dave Gettleman Era because he was a steal and a revelation in the fifth round out of Auburn: 48 catches, 740 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. No rookie receiver found the end zone more. His 10 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets were an eye-opener.

Imagine the possibilities, Giants fans: Jones taking a second-year leap under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett … Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram and Golden Tate staying on the field together … Barkley remaining the focus of defensive coordinators … and a maturing Slayton building on his chemistry with his quarterback.

Slayton has imagined the possibilities.

Darius SlaytonNY Giants

“I think we should have a really good chance to be explosive, I think we have a chance to be an explosive offense, a really efficient offense,” Slayton said.

Gettleman’s best draft pick has a chance to be for Jones what Del Shofner was for Y.A. Tittle once upon a time, what Odell Beckham Jr. was for Eli Manning once upon a more recent time.

Asked about how he sees himself in his sophomore season, Slayton said: “Just when the ball gets thrown my way, I’ll make plays when I have the opportunity to, and just go from there.”

Slayton offers some fun takes on Twitter, but he is anything but a diva, and besides, you won’t play for Joe Judge if you are one. He is a soft-spoken, respectful young man who just happens to be able to take the top off a defense with his speed. He isn’t a track star. He is a football player.

“It’s definitely been an interesting offseason, just kinda all the way around … the whole corona thing’s kinda been a little bit more extended than a normal offseason would be,” Slayton said, “but I feel like I’ve had a lot of time to get a lot of good work in.”

A lot of that good work came via inventive drills at his Georgia home using tennis balls.

“It was a tremendous help, having mostly my dad [Eddie] and my sister [Maileka], just doing ball drills with them around the house,” Slayton said. “They both have good enough aim to not break anything in the house. As long as I’m catching it, stuff tends to stay out together, but obviously I was trying to stay home, I was trying to abide by the rules and regulations at that point in time and not be out and about, so I decided to get creative at the house and find a way to keep getting better.”

Slayton joined Jones for on-field drills over the virtual offseason in Charlotte, N.C., and in Austin, Texas. By the latter part of last season, Jones’ confidence in Slayton was growing as Slayton’s confidence in himself began to grow.

“I’ve just got to make sure to get him the ball,” Jones said.

It is telling that none of Gettleman’s 10 draft picks in April was a receiver.

“In a league where there’s a lot of turnover across the board, it’s huge to have two guys, especially two veteran guys [Shepard and Tate] coming in, I had ’em first year and now I have ’em here for my second year,” Slayton said. “Just to continue to learn from and draw from them is definitely huge for somebody like me.”

Garrett will make sure the true playmakers will receive the ball. Much is made of the success Ezekiel Elliott had under Garrett. Dez Bryant exceeded 100 receptions four times. Michael Gallup had 66 catches for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns as a second-year WR in 2019.

“He’s done a really good job of just teaching us the system and being patient and helping give guys time to learn things, and get used to the playbook and all that type of stuff,” Slayton said. “I’m excited to have him as a coach this year.”

The young franchise quarterback is excited to have him as a receiver this year. The coaches are excited to have him as a receiver this year. There is no masking that.

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