It was a play Jones routinely made throughout the summer. With the Giants down by 10, Jones slides to his left, avoided pressure from the Bucs pass rush, and hit Slayton with a deep ball for a 46-yard gain.
Slayton is used to Jones throwing bombs like the 46-yarder he grabbed.
“I’ve been seeing him throw that ball for a minute now,” Slayton said after Thursday’s practice.
Slayton made his NFL debut Sunday in impressive fashion, catching three passes in five targets for 83 yards. He also had a key block on tight end Evan Engram’s ridiculous 75-yard touchdown to begin the second half. Jones also connected with Slayton on a 21-yard reception on the Giants’ game-winning drive.
After Jones ran seven yards for the go-ahead touchdown, the first person to meet him in the end zone was Slayton. It was a nice display of camaraderie between quarterback and receiver even though Slayton (like most of the word it seems) first had doubts about Jones.
“Well, we came in during rookie minicamp together obviously and I didn’t know anything about him either coming out of Duke,” Slayton said of his quarterback. “I didn’t know much about him. But we got to rookie minicamp and I just heard what everyone else was hearing, you know they wasted the pick, blah blah blah.
“So, I kinda came into the first day of practice like, ‘Man, let’s see what this guy’s about. I’m out here trying to make catches, this dude’s going to be throwing passes all over the place.’ Then we get out here and he’s spinning that thing. It was clear from Day 1 he’s got a great arm, very accurate…I’ve played with some pretty good quarterbacks and this dude can spin the pill. I think it was clear from the first day he got here that he was going to be pretty good.”
The Giants are hoping Jones and Slayton will be a playmaking combination for years to come.
It was a difficult journey to the field for Slayton, a fifth-round pick out of Auburn. A nagging hamstring injury forced him to miss the entire preseason and first two regular season games. Despite that, he has the confidence of the coaching staff.
“We believe in him,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “It’s good to have him back. He has the ability to go get down the field and make a play. I think that’s part of his charm.”
After the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr., they lost their only vertical threat. The speedy Slayton, who hails from Norcross, Ga., was a state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in high school. He ran a 4.35 40 at the NFL Combine. The Giants are can open up their playbook a little with the addition of Slayton to their receiving corps.
Slayton’s return was desperately needed. The Giants lost Corey Coleman for the season with a torn ACL suffered on the first day of training camp. Russell Shepard was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion and will be out at least eight weeks. Golden Tate won’t return from his four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs until Week 5.
Sterling Shepard broke his thumb on the first day of training camp and missed the Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills with a concussion. Cody Latimer suffered a calf injury during practice before the Buffalo game. Although he played against the Bills, he suffered a concussion in the loss and didn’t play against Tampa Bay.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula called Slayton “a really good route runner” for a rookie receiver. Both Sterling Shepard and Tate can get open underneath and make plays across the middle. Slayton’s ability to stretch the field vertically can only make the air attack more potent.
Slayton quietly impressed in his first NFL game. Despite his modesty, he wants to show the Giants—and the NFL—what he is capable of.
“I don’t know how much I helped in the first game,” Slayton said. “But, hopefully, as the season goes on, if I’m able to make more plays down the field, hopefully that’ll help open it up for other guys and the run game.”