Sterling Shepard Has Quietly Become The New York Giants Most Reliable Receiver 1
Robert Deutsch, USATSI

Quiet as kept, breakout rookie Sterling Shepard has been the New York Giants most efficient playmaker.

Year three was supposed to be the year Odell Beckham Jr. really took off. He electrified New York Giants fans in 2014 and 2015, singly making a 6-10 team nationally relevant. His line was mind-boggling through his first 27 games; 187 grabs, 2,755 yards, 25 TDs, and one spectacular catch after another. His first two seasons compared favorably to names like Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.

Entering 2016, pundits considered him, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones the interchangeable best WR in football. A quarter of the way through the season, he’s been the interchangeable best WR on his team. Enter Sterling Shepard.

Shepard — not Beckham Jr., not Victor Cruz — has been Eli Manning’s most dependable target. OBJ still outpaces him in targets (40 to 26), but Shepard’s made the most of his opportunities. Save for last week’s offensive dumpster fire in Minnesota, he’s made at least one big play every Sunday.

He drew rave reviews all through training camp last summer, and his success has translated to Sunday. Once the Giants offense gets rolling (if it does get rolling) he’ll be even better.

Through four games, Shepard leads the Giants in catch percentage (76.9) and receiving TDs (2). His 10.12 yards per target trumps Beckham Jr’s 7.77, and he’s dropped one pass to Odell’s three (2nd in the NFL). Best of all, he’s done it under the radar.

Shepard plays with just as much passion as Beckham Jr. does, but he does so with an unassuming confidence. His control in the moment after getting crushed by Redskins CB Josh Norman, on an in-route in Week 3, led to a 15-yard personal foul penalty for Big Blue.

Brad Penner, USATSI
Brad Penner, USATSI

Polar Opposites:

In that way, he’s been the antithesis to number 13. One has a blonde-tipped burst fade (as sported by every other kid in the world today), the other a simple lined-up low ‘cut. One hangs out with Drake, the other hangs out with his family. OBJ attends the Met Gala, and goes viral for (allegedly) snubbing Lena Dunham, Shep attends Sooners games and flicks it up with Jim Ross. Beckham’s style is as loud as his game, whereas Shepard’s game speaks volumes.

The New York Giants have been plagued by uneven performances on the field, and controversy off of it, for much of the past two weeks. Beckham wants the ball, as any great receiver should, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sterling Shepard does too, but you won’t hear him say so. He’s going to let his play do the talking, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

The difference so far is, you know what you’re getting with 87. It’ll be the same thing, whether things break his way or not. He’s going to contribute on the field, and avoid the drama off of it. That’s the type of mindset the Giants will need to right the ship. Well, that and a few wins anyway.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Beckham has 22 catches for 303 yds (13.8 yds/catch) and 0 tds
    Shephard has 20 catches for 263 yds (13.2 yds/catch) and 2 tds

    Beckham had 7 catches for 121yds against Washington
    Shephard had 5 catches for 73 yds and 1 td

    Shephard is doing well, and that is great for him, as he is showing in the first four games of his career that he may have a bright future. But right now he is doing it as the third option, and he is getting a lot of those opportunities because of the attention Beckham garners from opposing defenses. Beckham didn’t throw two ints that cost the Giants the Washington game. Everyone wants to blame Beckham, but what about the veteran QB who has been very average thus far? What about the coach who has called such spectacular games that it led to them scoring only 16 pts against the Saints? And that one td was not scored by the offense. Let’s encourage these young guys (Beckham is only 24, Shephard is only 22), instead of having the coach and QB and so many others coming out in public and throwing blame on him. How about taking some responsibility as veterans and leaders and talk about how they can help him? What did the sports analysts have to say about Moss when he was at the beginning of his career? A lot of these same things. And what about Brandon Marshall? Marshall has since been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and once he understood it and got some help, he has become a champion for others with mental health issues, as well as being one of the most thoughtful and well-spoken athletes out there today. Oh yeah, he also continues to be one of the most productive WRs on the field. Let’s not tear these young guys down for reacting like a human being who is 24 years old and plays in one of the most demanding and pressurized professions in this country. So none of those who are criticizing Beckham, ever had such human responses when they were 24 years old and became frustrated at something in their lives? Instead of being so critical, we should all be thankful that we were not under such a microscope at that point in our lives, and thus avoided such criticism when we showed some outward frustration or other human behaviors at times of stress. Let the man get out some frustration and then if it becomes more problematic to his own health, then those in charge of the Giants should be trying to help him, not tear him down.

    Thoughts?

    • Thanks Mike.

      I’m with you on all of that. OBJ is the man, not saying Shepard is a better player. Just that he’s on his way to being a good one. He’s been G-Men’s most ‘reliable’ not best. Absolutely does help that OBJ draws the defense.

      Totally agree on Eli. Check out my article about him today on ESNY Giants Center.