Seeing the continued growth of second-year wide receiver Sterling Shepard is just one reason to be excited about the New York Giants offense.
Shepard caught 65 passes for 683 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie season last year. He became the second reliable receiving option the Giants have been looking for years to compliment Odell Beckham Jr.
As the season progressed his productive rose as six of his touchdowns occurred over the final nine games of the season, including a stretch where he scored a touchdown in three consecutive games.
Shepard has quick feet, superb hands and is an excellent route runner. In some ways, he’s similar to former Giants receiver Steve Smith, except Shepard is more athletic.
A player normally makes their biggest stride from year one to year two. Now that Shepard has a year of experience of the speed and physicality of the game at its highest level, along with having a firm grasp of the offense, he’s poised to have a bigger impact this season.
This offseason saw the Giants add six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall as a free agent and draft tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Those two, along with OBJ, have been the subject of most of the attention surrounding the Giants offense this season. That trio will also command most of the attention from opposing defenses during the regular season, which benefits Shepard.
No other receiver on the Giants will see more one-on-one matchups than Shepard. Since he’ll be operating primarily in the slot against teams third-best cornerback, he’ll have a field day being singled up. Expect the Giants to have Shepard run many option routes, especially on third downs, allowing him to get to open space.
As a result, Shepard’s number of receptions and receiving yards should increase, despite the additions the Giants have made.
That increased production probably won’t be enough to get Shepard to his first Pro Bowl, but it could be the difference between the Giants missing the playoffs or making a legitimate Super Bowl run.