In a wretched start to the season for Big Blue, Sterling Shepard has been a beacon of hope on offense- and has the stats to prove it.
Sterling Shepard has staked an early claim for the right to be hailed the No.2 receiver in East Rutherford.
The second-round pick out of the 2016 NFL Draft has been industrious amid a testing period for the organization, in which it has been easy to brush aside all glimpses of improvement or promise.
Issues at nearly every position on the field have burdened the Giants in each of their four defeats this season.
They shouldn’t, however, disregard Shepard’s rise in prominence in head coach Ben McAdoo’s play-calling approach.
The second-year Oklahoma product boasts a team-high 254 receiving yards on 21 catches so far this campaign—including an explosive 77-yard touchdown in the 27-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
For a man whose role in 2017 came into question over the offseason, he has quite comfortably distanced himself in value from veteran Brandon Marshall.
The former New York Jets star has endured a torrid start to life with Big Blue, making just 16 catches for 139 yards and having failed to put his name on the scoreboard in any of the opening four games.
Marshall’s disappointing contributions have seen Shepard make a purposeful step up, although his good work is yet to inspire a first win of the season.
Shepard will take confidence from his place as the most productive slot receiver in the league, knowing full well he has more to offer.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 5, 2017
A hopefully perpetual progression on offense is certain to be coincided by a more notably impactful Shepard.
It’s for this reason that morale cannot afford to drop at a time when Eli Manning and his weapons are teasing, admittedly early, signs of pulling things together.
Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers—also seeking their first win of the season—will require Shepard timing his widely-credited route-running to perfection, with Melvin Ingram posing a threat to Manning in the pocket.
The defensive end is ranked third in the league with six sacks, and threatens to be a disruption to a struggling offensive line and the rhythm the Giants quarterbacks and his receivers are striving to find.
Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t the only fierce open-field competitor the Giants have at their disposal.
Besides being a smooth-mover, Shepard’s dominance in the slot has continued to display his toughness as well as his ability to gain yards after the catch.
With Marshall struggling to find his feet, it’s time the Giants took advantage of the more regular opportunities to put Shepard one-on-one with defenders- something he did not have often in his strong rookie season.
Give this kid the ball and he’ll make things happen. The same can be said for No.13 and rookie tight end Evan Engram, who has similarly seen his effectiveness overshadowed by four losses.
This weekend’s clash with a Chargers team whose pass defense has only allowed an average of 192 yards per game—sixth in the league—marks a chance for him to emerge from the shadows as a figure capable of helping spearhead a revival.
Young Shep means business.