New York Giants: Sterling Shepard Must Garner Consistency In 2017
Jun 13, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) runs with the ball during mini camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard must garner consistency in 2017 if he’s going to take the next step in his game.

The New York Giants possess a potentially lethal trio at the wide receiver position. With Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard present, the Giants have what could be a formidable wideout corp. However, Shepard must step up and garner consistency for that trio to become lethal.

Last year was solid, but not remarkable rookie season for the Oklahoma product. Finishing the year with 683 receiving yards, to go along with 65 receptions and eight touchdowns, Shepard was a standard weapon on the outside for Eli Manning and company. What was puzzling about Shepard’s 2016 play though, was his lack of consistency.

In their first three affairs, Shepard was producing at a reliable and impressive level for the Giants. Reeling in 16 passes for total 233 yards, Shepard was showcasing himself as a legitimate go-to weapon for Manning on the outside. However, after that brief three-week stretch, Shepard faded in a big way.

After an impressive three week stretch in the seasons’ early moments, Shepard produced at an underwhelming level for the remainder of the year. Recording a total 450 receiving yards for the rest of the year, Shepard lost the spark he had played with in the Giants’ first few games. The question though, is why did Shepard fade after such an electric start?

While reeling in eight touchdowns is an impressive feat for the rookie wideout, it’s puzzling as to why Shepard struggled to the point where he was little to no threat as the year progressed. The reasoning for why he began to fade though, was certainly not due to getting a fair share of looks from Manning.

Despite not seeing lots of success for a big chunk of the 2016 season, Shepard was still targeted by Manning at nearly the same rate when he broke out in weeks one to three. With that in mind, pinpointing the reasoning for his struggles becomes apparent.

Given that he was targeted at a consistent rate  – despite it not being a massive one – Shepard’s issues in 2016 were generated from not exploding and getting open deep downfield.

While he was targeted at a consistent rate, Shepard was unable to reel in catches for a significant gain. In fact, after his 117 yard showing in week two, Shepard never reached that same 100+ yard feat for the remainder of the 2016 season. His best game after week two was the Giants’ Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished the night with 11 receptions, to go along with a total of 61 yards, as well as the team’s lone trip to the end zone.

Another facet of his game that Shepard has to work on is his quickness.

While not by any means a slow poke, Shepard doesn’t quite possess anywhere near the speed that Beckham possesses. While Beckham is one of a kind, Shepard still needs to get quicker as the majority of his receptions lead to short completions, as opposed to big plays downfield. The addition of Marshall though should allow him to do just that.

With Marshall now a part of the Giants’ passing attack, things should be able to up for Shepard to thrive in the West Coast offense. Given that Beckham and Marshall are attention drawing targets to opposing secondaries, defense’s will likely opt to fortify their gameplan towards shutting down those two, as opposed to limiting Shepard.

Given the lack of attention, he’ll draw, Shepard should be able to get even more good, open looks down the field. However, Shepard’s ability to take advantage of that potential mismatch will be reliant on his quickness. He’ll have to generate more speed to blow by and benefit from opposing teams second string corners.

In hind’s sight, Shepard got off to a fast start in his rookie season but ultimately faded as the year went on. That inconsistent play must be improved upon if he and the Giants’ wide receiver corp want to be a lethal unit in 2017.

Whether it’s becoming quicker, getting himself open more, or taking advantage of the situation that may be present, Shepard has to improve in many ways to take the next step in his game. The biggest takeaway from those three facets of his game though is consistency. Shepard has to become more consistent to make more significant impact on the Giants’ offense. That means he cannot get hot at the beginning of the year and the fade as the year goes on – which is what he did in his rookie campaign.

Shepard’s ability to improve, but more importantly be consistent will be crucial to his year two development as well as the Giants’ receiving trio.

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop - part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos