The pace of training camp is about to pick up, and Darius Slayton is one of the fastest players on the team.
It's go time for the second-year wide receiver who has a chance to solidify himself on the NFL landscape.
"I think we just have a really good chance to be explosive," Slayton said. "I think we have a chance to be an explosive offense, a really efficient offense. I just look forward to playing this year."
On Wednesday, the Giants began Phase 2 of training camp, which meant the full 80-man squad was on the field together for the first time. Things will ramp up in the next 10 days, a period that will include the first padded practice and intrasquad scrimmages each Friday, starting Aug. 21.
There, Slayton will have the opportunity to play with the full arsenal of Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, something they were unable to do consistently in 2019.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Slayton said. "I hope everybody can stay healthy this year and hopefully play a full 16 [games] together. I definitely think it will be really important to have all of us out there at the same time. I'm really excited."
So is incoming offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, whom Slaton did not know too much about - other than that Garrett was an accomplished head coach in Dallas.
"I think it just does a really good job of harnessing all of our weapons on our offensive skill set," Slayton said of Garrett's scheme. "We have fast receivers like myself, Shep and Golden. We have a fast tight end. All of our tight ends honestly, Evan, Levine [Toilolo] and Kaden [Smith]. Obviously, our running backs speak for themselves with Wayne [Gallman] and Saquon. I think the offense does a really good job holistically of getting everyone involved. Everybody will have a chance to get the ball and have the opportunity to make plays."
Slayton did plenty of that as a rookie.
Coming off a breakout 2019 campaign, one in which he tied for the NFL rookie lead in touchdown catches, the former fifth-round pick entered the off-season with what every player and team want: momentum. Then 2020 happened. The coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to adjust, including those in the each corner of the sports world.
Slayton did what many 23-year-olds around the country did and moved in with his parents. In his case, home is Atlanta. In between virtual sessions of the Giants' off-season program, which included the installation of a new offense, Slayton spent the initial stages of quarantine training with his father, Eddie, and sister, Maileka. One of the drills focused on hand-eye coordination with the use of tennis balls.
"It was a tremendous help for me," Slayton said. "I had mostly my dad and my sister just doing ball drills with them around the house. They both have good enough aim to not break anything in the house. As long as I'm catching it, stuff tends to stay put together. 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. I just tried to get creative at the house and find a way to keep getting better."
Slayton's eight touchdowns last year are tied for the third-most by a rookie in franchise history, two behind Bill Swiacki (1948) and four off Odell Beckham Jr.'s record (2014). He also ranks fifth in receiving yards and is tied for sixth in catches in the Giants' rookie annals.
Slayton, who missed the first two weeks because of a hamstring injury, was part of one of the NFL's most prolific wide receiver classes. Five rookies recorded at least seven touchdown receptions in 2019: Slayton, Tennessee's A.J. Brown (eight), Baltimore's Marquise Brown (seven), Washington's Terry McLaurin (seven) and Seattle's DK Metcalf (seven). In total, rookies combined for 110 touchdown receptions in 2019 and surpassed 2014 (109 touchdown catches) for the most combined touchdown receptions by rookies in a single season since 1970.
Coach Joe Judge is eager to ramp things up with Slayton and the rest of his players.
"I hope to see an improvement and a level of intensity from everyone on the field," Judge said. "Look, we're going to be moving at a fast pace come Friday, and then again on Sunday when we come back from the day off. They're going to be moving fast, we're going to be intent, we're going to have an intensity in how we work. When the padded practices start on Monday, it will reduce to a 90-minute practice per league rules. We're going to build everyone to make sure that now that we're in pads, we can execute with the right fundamentals to play aggressive but safe. At all positions, receiver, D-line, it doesn't matter. When the pads go on, you have to see intensity ramp up."
View photos from Wednesday's start of Phase 2 of training camp, where the full roster was on the field together for the first time.