Giants veteran WR being phased out in favor of younger talent

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) participates in drills during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Facility
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard finds himself in a precarious situation within the team’s offense. As younger wide receivers like rookie Jalin Hyatt and second-year Wan’dale Robinson emerge, Shepard’s role has gradually diminished.

Despite being Big Blue’s longest-tenured player, Shepard’s injury history and the team’s recent additions have cast doubts on his future with the franchise.

Injuries have plagued Sterling Shepard’s career

Drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft, Shepard has displayed his talent and versatility over eight seasons with the Giants and has become a fan favorite. Accumulating 365 receptions for 4,061 yards and 22 touchdowns in 81 games, he has consistently produced on the field.

Unfortunately, injuries have plagued his career, forcing him to miss a total of 33 games in the past four seasons.

After suffering two season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons with a torn Achilles in 2021 and an ACL tear in 2022, concerns about his durability started to linger. Shepard was re-signed on a one-year veteran minimum contract, adding uncertainty to his future with the Giants.

Competition in the Giants’ receiving corps

This season, Shepard found himself facing increased competition for playing time. The arrival of new offensive weapons during the offseason has led to Shepard’s decline on the team’s depth chart. With a crowded wide receiver room, there were even rumors that Shepard might be cut before the season due to a lack of a defined role.

Head Coach Brian Daboll has expressed his intention to prioritize the development and playing time of younger players like Hyatt and Robinson. Recognizing their potential and considering them as integral parts of the future receiving unit, Daboll aims to give them more opportunities to gain experience.

Consequently, this leaves Shepard with even fewer chances to make a significant impact moving forward.

The Giants have too many mouths to feed

With Robinson assuming the slot role and Hyatt and fellow veteran Darius Slayton making strides on the outside, Shepard finds himself relegated to the status of a mere depth piece. Despite his proven ability to contribute, there simply seem to be too many mouths to feed on offense.

It is essential to note that Shepard’s lack of usage does not stem from an inability to produce. Throughout his career, Shepard has demonstrated the ability to make plays when given the opportunity.

However, with his snap count decreasing from 14 snaps in Week 1 to just one in Week 6, it is evident that the coaching staff has prioritized other options. Shepard has only seen four targets in six games, leading to a meager stat line of three receptions for 23 yards.

Is Sterling Shepard’s time with the Giants coming to an end?

Shepard’s highlight of the season thus far was a modest 13-yard catch in Week 5 against the Miami Dolphins. Despite receiving a season-high 20 snaps in this contest, he was only targeted twice. With each passing game, it becomes increasingly likely that Shepard’s time in the Big Apple is drawing to a close.

While Shepard’s current situation may seem uncertain, there is hope that he might still have a role to play in Big Blue’s offense moving forward. Coach Daboll has acknowledged Shepard’s frustration with his playing time and has expressed the intention of increasing his involvement; however, actions speak louder than words, and Shepard’s limited role in the offense casts doubt on whether this promise will be fulfilled.

Given the team’s alignment on Slayton, Hyatt, Robinson, and Isaiah Hodgins as the primary receivers moving forward, it remains to be seen whether Shepard’s role will significantly expand.

As the season progresses, it becomes highly plausible that we are witnessing the last of Shepard in a Giants uniform. The lack of consistent playing time and limited opportunities for impact plays suggest that the organization might be ready to move on from the veteran. While Shepard’s contributions cannot be discounted, the emergence of younger talents and the desire to develop future stars like Hyatt and Robinson might ultimately seal his fate.

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