Giants’ veteran WR could be at risk of being cut from the final roster

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

The New York Giants have begun trimming down their roster ahead of the start of the 2023 regular season. The most intriguing position that Big Blue needs to cut down is at wide receiver. The Giants currently have nine receivers on their roster after cutting Collin Johnson and Jaydon Mickens and placing Bryce Ford-Wheaton on injured reserve.

There are a couple of veteran wide receivers on the roster bubble hoping to make the final 53. One of those veterans is Sterling Shepard, the Giants’ longest-tenured player. Shepard initially seemed like a lock to make the final roster after an impressive summer of practices. However, Shepard’s lack of playing time in the final preseason game has left his future in question.

Sterling Shepard was barely utilized in the final preseason game

Typically, NFL teams will leave their starters on the sideline during the preseason to preserve their health for the games that count in the standings. Shepard barely played in the preseason finale, however, that exclusion might not be indicative of his standing in the starting lineup. Instead, Shepard’s lack of playing time could indicate a lack of standing on the roster.

Dan Duggan of The Athletic is speculating that Shepard’s roster spot could be in question following the conclusion of the final preseason game. Duggan is comparing Shepard’s situation to that of former Giants LB Blake Martinez, shedding some doubt over the receiver’s future with New York.

“I think Sterling Shepard makes the roster and I think he deserves to,” Duggan writes on X. “But I’d be lying if there aren’t some Blake Martinez in last year’s preseason finale vibes.

“Using Shep for a punt return was totally head-scratching. He said he hadn’t done it in a game since his junior year in college and dismissed the idea of that becoming a full-time role. If the plan is to go with Eric Gray, why not give him as many reps as possible?”

Last season, Martinez was, as Duggan describes, a player “everyone just assumed was safe,” so no suspicion arose after he was held from the preseason finale. However, “it was a bad sign in hindsight,” as he was cut from the final roster prior to the regular season.

Shepard fielded one punt against the Jets; a role he has never been tasked with before in his seven-year NFL career. It is possible the Giants are looking for additional ways that Shepard can contribute to see whether or not he is valuable enough to hold on to the final roster.

Why Shepard should make the Giants’ final roster

Shepard has looked “really good and explosive of late,” according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan. The veteran had an “active and productive practice” on Wednesday. Shepard has been a standout performer throughout training camp, routinely toasting opposing Giants cornerbacks.

Despite his struggles with injuries throughout his career, Shepard is still a player who could provide value to New York’s offense. His role would be diminished this season as a backup on Big Blue’s depth chart. But this lessened role could allow Shepard to stay healthy and have a stellar 2023 season.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: