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At the bye week, receiver Darius Slayton was looking forward to a strong finish and was seeking one specific area to upgrade.
“We’ve made explosive plays here and there,’’ Slayton said. “I think we could probably do a little better job of that going down the stretch.’’
The Giants are not an explosive team, and Slayton, one of their most explosive players, has drifted out of the spotlight. After a breakout opening to his second NFL season, Slayton is laboring through a rough stretch at a time when the Giants are winning but he is rarely joining in the fun, from a production standpoint.
“We call our offense based on what gives us the best possible chance to win and there have been some instances where Slayton has been open and there are some other guys open as well, so we go to other guys,’’ receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. “It’s not like we’re not trying to get him the ball. I know it looks that way on the outside, but no. Slayton is a very important part of our passing offense.’’
In the first five games, Slayton averaged eight targets, 4.6 receptions and 73 yards per game. He had a six-catch, 102-yard, two-touchdown season debut against the Steelers and an eight-catch, 129-yard outing in Week 5 in Dallas. Since then, the drop in production is stark. In the last six games, Slayton is averaging 4.3 targets, 2.5 receptions and 36.5 yards per game. He bottomed out in last week’s 19-17 victory in Cincinnati. Slayton was targeted only two times and did not catch a pass, on the field for 56 of the 81 offensive plays.
“He rolled an ankle a little bit or something like that but he went back in,’’ Tolbert said. “I took him out a couple of times because it looked like it was bothering him a little bit, nothing earth-shattering. No, that’s not limiting him in any shape, form or fashion.’’
This week, he missed time in practice with shoulder and foot issues but he has no injury designation, meaning he will play Sunday against the Seahawks in Seattle.
Asked how he deals with players who are going through what Slayton is going through, Tolbert said, “Very carefully.’’ This is where an assistant coach takes on the added role of amateur psychologist.
“All receivers feel like they’re always open and they want all the targets and all the catches and all the touchdowns, and when they don’t get it, some people, it affects some people more than others,’’ Tolbert said.
“With most receivers that I’ve coached, and these guys included, when you win that cures everything. When you don’t have that much success it can affect some guys. It hasn’t affected Slay to the point where it has affected some other guys that I’ve coached.’’
It remains to be seen if Colt McCoy, expected to start at quarterback in place of Daniel Jones (strained hamstring), can get the deep ball to Slayton. The Seahawks are last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 328.8 yards per game.
Slayton last week ran by Bengals cornerback Willie Jackson, stumbled a bit after some contact from Jackson and was nevertheless open for what should have been a 74-yard touchdown hookup. Jones put plenty of air under the ball and it fell inches beyond Slayton’s reach.
Should Slayton have laid out and dove for the ball?
“He could,’’ Tolbert said. “Some guys are more comfortable running through the ball, some guys lay out. Slayton is obviously a run-through-it kind of guy, because he has really good speed. I think the little contact he had with the corner about halfway through the route kind of threw him off a little bit.’’
Slayton is getting thrown off too often to suit the Giants offense.