Giants’ injury-riddled receiver showing ‘quickness and explosion’ after ACL tear

nfl: new york giants training camp, sterling shepard, new york giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have revamped their wide receiver lineup this off-season, acquiring talents like Jalin Hyatt and Parris Campbell, as well as star tight end Darren Waller. This gives quarterback Daniel Jones an array of passing options to explore, and he’s also set to welcome back two players from injury-laden 2022 seasons.

Returning Warriors: Wan’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard

Recently, the Giants activated Wan’Dale Robinson from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, who’s on the road to recovery after an ACL tear during a Week 11 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Also making a comeback is veteran receiver Sterling Shepard.

At 30, Shepard is not new to long rehab processes; he suffered a torn ACL this season and an Achilles tear in 2021, both of which ended his seasons prematurely.

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Shepard’s Comeback With the Giants: Coach Brian Daboll Weighs In

In spite of these setbacks, Shepard has impressed with his resilience and athleticism. “He’s looked pretty good in terms of his quickness and his explosion coming back after a couple years of injuries,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “So I’m pleased with where he’s at.”

A Grateful Shepard Speaks on His Rehabilitation Journey

In an interview with ESPN, Shepard opened up about his grueling rehabilitation process and expressed his gratitude for remaining a part of the Giants’ roster. “I worked extremely hard to get back to here, but that is just one step of the process of where I wanted to get back to,” Shepard noted. “Now I’m just focused on every day getting better and better. But I’m grateful to be here.”

Sterling Shepard: A Veteran Presence with Daniel Jones Chemistry

Shepard was re-signed for the 2023 season on a veteran minimum deal, acknowledging his leadership and compatibility with Daniel Jones. Though he has appeared in just 10 games over the past two seasons, Shepard made a considerable impact in 2020 with 656 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games.

Given that the Giants have expanded their wide receiver arsenal, Shepard’s role is likely to diminish, which should prove beneficial for his long-term health. He faces natural doubts about his ability to perform at the level he’s accustomed to, given the number of injuries he’s sustained. Yet, his mental fortitude has been vividly displayed throughout training camp and preseason games.

Mental Resilience: Shepard Speaks Out

“Naturally does it cross your mind: ‘Am I going to be the same player?’ Yeah,” Shepard said on the Breaking Big Blue podcast. “But I have tools, or something in my head to immediately when those [thoughts] start to creep in, I tell myself, ‘You’ve been that, you’re still going to be that!’ I’m just all positive reinforcement to myself like, ‘I’m Sterling Shepard. I’ve done this before and I can get back to that!’”

Tyrod Taylor’s Impressions of Sterling Shepard

Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been notably impressed by Shepard’s quickness and energy. Even when sidelined, Shepard served as a motivating force, encouraging his fellow receivers and providing valuable guidance to rookie Jalin Hyatt. “He looks better than I’ve ever seen him. It’s only my second year here in New York, but it’s the best I’ve ever seen him,” Taylor noted.

Ideally, Shepard will take a secondary role behind the Giants’ more youthful and dynamic pass-catchers. His experience, including 63.7% of his career plays in the slot and 35.6% on the boundary, gives the Giants a versatile weapon to deploy in various offensive schemes.

Shepard’s remarkable comeback and low salary make him an asset that simply can’t be duplicated. His resilience adds an intangible quality to a Giants receiving corps that has seen a significant upgrade this off-season.