Wide receiver Darius Slayton and quarterback Daniel Jones have been closely tied during their NFL careers with the New York Giants.
They joined the Giants as 2019 draft picks. Jones’ first start came in Slayton’s NFL debut. Slayton’s first touchdown reception was thrown by Jones.
But the former Auburn pass-catcher is going to have to get along without the quarterback for the rest of the 2023 season, and, for now, Slayton doesn’t have second-stringer Tyrod Taylor to catch passes from either.
Back after missing three games with a neck injury, Jones sustained a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Taylor had gone out of the previous game – a 13-10 overtime loss to the New York Jets – with a rib injury, and he remains sidelined.
That leaves Tommy DeVito, an undrafted rookie from Illinois, to make his first NFL start as New York’s quarterback in Sunday’s NFC East game against the Dallas Cowboys. Signed by the Giants on Oct. 31, Matt Barkley will back up DeVito.
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“I think we have capable guys,” Slayton said. “I feel like DeVito did a good job coming in and played to the best of his ability. Obviously, we already have Matt Barkley. He’s a veteran quarterback on the roster and has been in Buffalo, so he’s very familiar with the system. I’m sure whoever it is that they put out there will go out there and do a good job.”
When DeVito came in for Taylor against the Jets, he completed 2-of-7 passes for minus-1 yard and got sacked twice. Slayton caught one pass for minus-1 yard in that game.
On Sunday, DeVito completed 15-of-20 passes for 175 yards and threw for his first NFL touchdown. But he also was intercepted twice and sacked six times. Slayton led New York with four receptions for 59 yards.
“I think DeVito played pretty well (Sunday) with the time he had and will continue to build and get better,” Slayton said. “… I think the guys that we have will be able to do a good job for us going forward.”
When Jones missed the final six games of the 2021 season, the Giants lost every game and scored more than 10 points once. That performance got the coaching staff fired and brought current coach Brian Daboll to the team after four seasons as the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator.
“It was a bit of a different predicament then because there was a lot of other things outside of that,” Slayton said. “Our staff was at risk that season, obviously. Both our (quarterbacks) — DJ and then Mike Glennon was our backup — ended up going down. Then we brought in Jake Fromm from wherever we brought him in from at the time, basically off the couch. We were in a bit of a different predicament then, in a different space then than we are now as a team.”
The 2021 season is the only one of Slayton’s career in which he wasn’t the Giants’ leading receiver. He has 23 receptions for 316 yards in 2023, which ranks second to the team to tight end Darren Waller’s 36 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown.
Coming off a season with a playoff victory, New York signed Jones to a four-year, $160 million contract in March. But the Giants have a 2-7 record, Jones already had missed three games and now he’s out for the season.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Slayton said about Jones’ injury. “You don’t ever want to see any of your teammates go down. But for me personally, being here my whole career with DJ and kind of just the natural connection a receiver and quarterback have. Obviously, for me I think it’s a bit personal. …
“You can’t control what people say. Quite frankly, people have been trying to get myself and him and multiple others out of here since we’ve been here. That hasn’t stopped us before, and it won’t stop us now. Like I said earlier, he’s a resilient human being, he’s a good football player, and, at the end of the day, he’ll be back healthy again one day and he’ll be back playing pro football somewhere, hopefully here, and I look forward to that day.”
The Giants and Cowboys square off at 3:25 p.m. CST Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Slayton said he and his teammates must “stay together” in the face of adversity.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team,” Slayton said, “and nobody is going out here and fighting these games by themselves. We have to stay together as a unit and continue to fight, even if the odds may not be in our favor or whatever. But at the end of the day, our job is to go out there and play to the best of our ability, and that’s what we have to do.”
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.