Giants hope to make playoffs with unannounced receiving trio

Eight receivers are better represented on the backs of fans in jerseys at Giants home games than the trio trying to make enough big plays to reach the playoffs.

There’s the band of Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Steve Smith from back-to-back successful 2007-08 seasons. Or their replacements of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham from the last Super Bowl title after the 2011 season. Or the tandem of Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. with Cruz from the last playoff appearance in 2016.

Now? Welcome to the era of Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins and Richie James – the most unlikely peak of a receiver depth chart for any playoff contender.

“We all have something to prove,” said Slayton, who makes up 30.5 percent of the Giants’ airyards (18th-highest share by any receiver for any team), according to Next Gen Stats. “I don’t think we’ve proven anything yet that we have to prove. We still need to do more. So now is definitely not the time for any of us to get complacent.

The Giants entered Week 1 of the season with a top four consisting of Kenny Golladay, Wan’Dale Robinson, Kadarius Toney and Shepard. At the time, Slayton was a healthy scratch as the No. 7 receiver on the depth chart, Hodgins was stuck on the Bills’ practice squad, and James’ primary position was punt returner.

Isaiah Hodgins (#18) is congratulated by Nick Vannett after scoring a touchdown in the Giants’ loss to the Vikings.
New York Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Sixteen weeks later, Robinson and Shepard are sidelined with torn ACLs, Toney is playing for the Chiefs and a benched Golladay (four catches in 10 games) has played three total snaps in the last two games combined. Meanwhile, the speedy Slayton leads the Giants with 710 receiving yards, and the big Hodgins and sneaky James have combined for six touchdowns over the past six games.

“They’re all resilient,” left tackle Andrew Thomas said. “They had their opportunities and they made the most of them. Regardless of what people say about them or what they may think, when the game is on, they are ready to play. They play hard, physically and make plays for us.

Darius Slayton catches a pass past Chandon Sullivan in the Giants' loss to the Vikings.
Darius Slayton catches a pass past Chandon Sullivan in the Giants’ loss to the Vikings.
PA

In last week’s loss to the Vikings — the Giants’ most explosive passing offense (334 yards) in a game since 2019 — James, Hodgins and running back Saquon Barkley became the top trio of passers with eight or more one-game receptions in franchise history. Slayton added four.

All the more incredible is the fact that Slayton, Hodgins and James count for just $2.48 million against the salary cap. That’s less than 12% of Golladay’s team’s $21.15 million charge, which is responsible for the Giants allocating the third-highest amount of dollar caps ($34 million) to receivers. of any team this season, according to spotrac.com.

Slayton agreed to a pay cut of $2.45 million to $965,000 – giving up nearly all of the “performance-based pay” increase he earned in his first three seasons – just to avoid his release after training camp. He and James are unrestricted free agents after the season, while Hodgins is an easier-to-keep exclusive-rights free agent. All three gave the Giants something to consider.

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“I feel like a lot of people who might have been in my situation might have gotten depressed or stopped trying or not trying to get out of that predicament,” Slayton said. “But I really like playing football. So even though I was inactive in week 1, I didn’t want it to be my predicament. As long as I have health and can play ball and I I can train, I believe in myself, and I believe in my abilities.

The Giants ignored the outcry to trade for a receiver at the deadline — instead of shipping the underperforming Toney — and added Hodgins off waivers. All he’s done is score three touchdowns over the past four games and show a grip (zero drops with 29 catches) that Slayton (six with 44) and James (three with 50) lack.

Richie James catches a long pass during the third quarter of the Giants' loss to the Vikings.
Richie James catches a long pass during the third quarter of the Giants’ loss to the Vikings.
New York Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“He’s been very consistent for us,” Slayton said. “He did a great job moving the sticks. He does a good job making contested catches in midfield.

James returned to the fold after a three-game midseason in which he played just 11 total offensive snaps and dropped two punt returns.

“To be in this town, to play for the Giants, you have to be mentally strong and do what you have to do on the field,” said safety Julian Love, who overcame adversity and small roles to become an entrance. “I can relate to them a bit, but I would say they do an even better job because [fans pay more attention to] what they do on offense.

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