New York Giants: Sterling Shepard and his versatility will be crucial for the offense in 2021

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants revamped their receiving corps in 2021. Last season, the Giants’ group of wide receivers were a subpar group that failed to create separation or make contested catches. Only one wide receiver (Sterling Shepard) reached the league average in separation yards last season via Next Gen Stats.

In the 2021 offseason, the Giants recognized this deficiency and worked to fix the issue. They went out and got Daniel Jones a new alpha dog outside receiver in Kenny Golladay and also added a speedy human joystick underneath in Kadarius Toney. This receiver group is now loaded, giving Daniel Jones plenty of options to share the football with.

Darius Slayton might seem like the odd-man-out to some, but he actually might see the field a great amount. The reason for this being Sterling Shepard’s positional versatility. Over the past two seasons, Sterling Shepard has played on the outside despite starting his career off as a premier slot receiver. This versatility gives the Giants the ability to rotate their personnel and get Toney, Shepard, and Slayton all a bunch of reps this season.

Sterling Shepard inside and outside

Many fans typically think of Sterling Shepard as a slot receiver. However, since 2019, Shepard has played as an outside receiver. In 2019, Shep played 331 snaps out wide and 256 inside. Sterling continued playing predominantly outside in 2020. 356 of his offensive snaps came out wide with only 190 in the slot this past season. Shepard was typically playing the Z-receiver role in 2020 with Darius Slayton lining up as the team’s X-receiver. The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. and the gain of Golden Tate forced Shepard to kick out wide that season after playing from the slot in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Sterling Shepard has gotten comfortable playing outside these past two years. But his best seasons came from the slot when he was playing alongside Odell Beckham. From 2016-2018 (slot), Shepard averaged 63.3 receptions, 762 yards, and 4.7 touchdowns per year. From 2019-2020 (outside), Sterling averaged 61.5 receptions, 616 yards, and 3 touchdowns per year.

In 2021, Shepard will once again play the complementary role to a true number one receiver threat in Kenny Golladay. The addition of Kenny G is so crucial for the Giants’ offense because it makes Shepard and Slayton better as they are now secondary options facing secondary cornerbacks.

One of the reasons Sterling Shepard has had such a successful career thus far is his versatility. He can play inside, outside, and do both at a high level. When the Giants want Darius Slayton on the field, Sterling Shepard should play in the slot. When the team wants Kadarius Toney on the field in the slot, Sterling Shepard should replace Slayton out wide. Sterling Shepard is the second-best receiver on the New York Giants’ roster right now, so the team needs to keep him on the field as much as possible.

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