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Receivers embody 'next man up' mentality


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Before they took the field to face the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in London, the unlikely quartet wearing Giants uniforms came together for a positional pep talk.

"You kind of look around and say, 'It's just the four of us,' said Darius Slayton. "'It's all we got. But at the same time, it's all we got, but it's all we need.' So, I think it's just having that confidence and knowing all the guys out there can get the job done."

That's exactly what they did. The improbable foursome of Richie James, David Sills, Marcus Johnson and Slayton combined for 13 of the Giants' 21 catches and 142 of their 217 receiving yards in the team's 27-22 victory against the Packers.

As recently as three weeks ago, the odds of that group being active together and exclusively were astronomical. But then Sterling Shepard suffered a season-ending torn ACL, Kenny Golladay hurt his knee and Kadarius Toney sustained a second hamstring injury, forcing all of them to join rookie Wan'Dale Robinson on the sideline.

But the unheralded players who replaced them were undaunted.

"All the receivers came, and we were like, 'Look, it's us, nobody's giving us a chance,'" Johnson said. "Not only are they not giving us as a team a chance, but they're looking at the receiver room like, 'Ain't no way this is going to cut it.' It's cool. That's what life is, proving people wrong. And that's what we went out there and did."

And they did so impressively. Slayton, who was a healthy scratch for the season opener and had one reception entering the game, led the Giants with six catches for 79 yards. He picked up first downs on five of his receptions.

"I thought he had a great game on Sunday," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I have a lot of trust and confidence in him. I've said it. We've been here since we were both rookies. I've played a lot of football with him and built up a lot of trust, a lot of chemistry over time. To see him go out there and have that good of a game was exciting and I was happy for him. We'll continue to try and get him the ball, but he was big time on Sunday (when the Giants host Baltimore)."

Johnson, elevated from the practice squad for the second straight week, caught three passes for 35 yards. James, the team's leading receiver through four games, and Sills each had two receptions, totaling 28 yards.

"It's always just believing in each other and more importantly yourself," said Johnson, who has previously played for Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Tennessee. "The outside world is going to talk. People love hype. They love big-time names. They want superstars. And a lot of times in this league, you have a lot of unproven talent. We might not be superstars, but we're here for a reason. It's the reason Slay has been as productive as he has, and Sills has been in the league as long as he has. And I'm going on year seven. Everybody has their break at different moments.

"This league is preparation of being ready for the moment. And I think we're all not only ready for it, but we've done stuff like eat dinners together, and we've had a little bit of time to bond. So, when we were out on the field, I can't tell you how cool it was to see us go out there and it was just us. We don't worry about the outside noise; it's just us, our coaches, our teammates and just going out there and making plays."

Slayton, a four-year veteran, is the longest-tenured Giants receiver in the reconfigured hierarchy. In his first three years, he played in 43 games with 29 starts and had 124 receptions for 1,830 yards (14.8-yard avg.) and 13 touchdowns. Slayton also had four 100-yard games, most recently on Oct. 11, 2020.

Last year, the 2019 fifth-round draft choice missed three games with a hamstring injury and a fourth when he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Slayton finished with career-low totals of 26 catches, 313 yards and two touchdowns. When this season began, he was had fallen behind several receivers and was inactive for the first game.

Though he was down on the depth chart, Slayton never got down on himself.

"(I) just focus on my craft," he said. "I think that whether you're on either side of that fence, so to speak, I think at the end of the day, you've got to focus on your craft and make sure that you perform at a high level when you get your opportunities.

"Like anything, some days are better than others. But I think I come from a good background of people. I have a good support system, and they help a lot keeping me even throughout all that."

It is uncertain which wide receivers will be available this week, when the Giants host the AFC North-leading Ravens. Golladay and Toney did not practice today. Robinson worked on a limited basis.

But if the Giants need the same foursome to suit up and make plays, they're all ready, in part because they've moved on from their contributions in London.

"It doesn't mean anything," Johnson said. "It's one week. We're just going to keep locking in, keep working, keep competing. Week-in and week-out we keep believing in each other. And it's going to show."

*Punter Jamie Gillan was not with the team today. Because of a visa issue, the Scottish native did not return with the Giants from London following the game Sunday. He is expected to re-join the team tomorrow. His fellow specialists - kicker Graham Gano and snapper Casey Kreiter – humorously supported their mate writing "Free Jamie" on Giants T-shirts.

*Former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder – and his entourage – watched practice and spoke with coach Brian Daboll and many of the players. Wilder is scheduled to fight Robert Helenius Saturday night in Brooklyn.

*In addition to Gillan, Golladay and Toney, three defensive backs did not practice: Cor'Dale Flott (calf), Tony Jefferson (foot) and Jason Pinnock (ankle).

*Players who were limited were running back Saquon Barkley (shoulder); fullback Chris Myarick (ankle); quarterback Tyrod Taylor (concussion); defensive lineman Leonard Williams (knee); defensive end Azeez Ojulari (calf); defensive backs Adoree' Jackson (knee/neck) and Darnay Holmes (quad); and Robinson (knee).

*On Sunday, October 16, the Giants will be celebrating Latino Heritage Month in partnership with Ford and supported by Dunkin' and PNC Private Bank. Fans will be welcomed with several plaza festivities, including: Sampling of Latin cuisine, live DJ, Latin style dance exhibition, Super Bowl trophy on display (weather permitting), and more. The festivities will take place on the plaza between MetLife and Verizon gates.

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