Darius Slayton caught two touchdowns in Wednesday’s minicamp practice on Wednesday.
One was for everyone else to enjoy. The other was for himself.
The one for the masses? That was the deep route down the right sideline when fellow Giants rookie Daniel Jones lofted a long pass and Slayton sprinted under it to make an over-the-shoulder grab. The only thing missing was the rousing NFL Films music.
“Any play that is well executed is like poetry in motion,” Slayton said. “The quarterback drops a perfect ball, catch, it’s just a beautiful play.”
The one for himself? That came earlier on a shorter, more routine pass. He caught it near the sideline and then, with the ball tucked away, he took off. Down the field he blazed, passing by the defensive backs who, although not able to tackle him because of minicamp rules, were still clearly unable to keep up with him.
“One thing I’ve never lost sleep over is speed,” he said. “I know I’m going to be able to put pressure on guys and run by guys.”
So as he went down the field on the catch-and-run (as opposed to the run-and-catch), he said he had one thought in his mind. A bit of a revelation, in fact.
“You know,” he said to himself, “I can do this.”
That was certainly not what he was thinking after his first rookie minicamp practice in early May. While all eyes were on Jones for that workout, Slayton, the fifth-round pick from Auburn, was ruining his fellow rookie’s completion stats. Slayton dropped at least three easy passes that day in one of the ugliest debuts a Giants draft pick has had in recent memory.
About a month later, during this week’s full minicamp, head coach Pat Shurmur was asked which young player has stood out during the spring workouts. He barely hesitated before declaring Slayton that player.
Apparently there was no place for him to go but up from that first dreadful day.
“I think we were all here during rookie minicamp when he kind of had the yips, drops, and whatnot,” Shurmur said. “He’s really smoothed it out and he’s been making plays. He’s the first guy that comes to mind.”
“It’s definitely huge,” Slayton said of the compliment. “I’m glad he said that. Obviously I’ve been trying to get better day by day and be consistent day in and day out. To know that they’ve taken notice is definitely huge for me.”
Slayton isn’t quite ready to laugh off that first practice.
“It was one of those things, it’s your first day, and as a rookie you want to be super that first day and do everything right,” he said. “But the reality is you have to calm down and just play ball. That’s something I’ve been able to do as we’ve gone on.”
He’s also been able to earn Jones’ trust. After those first few passes toward Slayton in May, it wouldn’t have been shocking if Jones had lost confidence and never again looked in his direction. Instead, the two have become a strong combination on the second team and are building a chemistry that will serve them during their tenures with the Giants. That includes off the field, too, like when Jones and Slayton were the only Giants at the NFLPA’s Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles last month.
“It was definitely a chance for us to get to know each other a little better because I had to talk to somebody,” Slayton laughed.
Jones and Slayton are in similar positions. They’ll be surrounded by established veterans who will be playing ahead of them and their job is to soak up as much as they can from that pool of wisdom and be ready to play when the time comes.
At some point, that time may come for the two of them together. That’s why their chemistry on the field at these minicamps isn’t only about the present. Slayton is already starting to focus on that future.
“Honestly, my job is pretty easy,” he said of working with Jones. “He’s a really smart guy, he throws a great ball, it’s on time. When you are working with a guy like that as a receiver it gives you a lot of confidence that all I have to worry about is getting open and he is going to put the ball where it’s needed… He’s a really good player so I feel good about him now and going forward.”
And after some jitters from Slayton on their first day together, it appears that the feeling is mutual.