New York Giants: Sterling Shepard praises Daniel Jones in important area

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants team and organization seems to have faith in Daniel Jones going into 2021. Despite Jones regularly ending up on the other side of complaints from the fans, the Giants front office and staff have been nothing but committed to the third year QB in all their statements this offseason. Other members of the roster have also painted a popular picture of Jones, including the receivers he’ll play with this season.

Sterling Shepard is one of those satisfied receivers, and had some things to say to the New York Daily News about Jones’ leadership. Specifically, the trip to Arizona that Jones led earlier in the offseason was brought up. During this trip, Jones worked with other members of the offense to get some early practice in under Jason Garrett’s system.

“It just shows his leadership skills in getting everybody together and trying to get some of the timing down. That’s important for offense, especially receiver to QB. Good session. We had a great time out there getting to know each other and bonding with each other, as well. Just shows you [Jones’] maturity level in being able to set something like that up,” Shepard said.

Shepard also spoke during the same interview about the Giants adding Kadarius Toney, another receiver, with their first round pick.

He said that he’s not looking at Toney as new competition – and his explanation is pretty on point. Him and Toney aren’t the same player, with the rookie having a more physical and explosive game.

“No. We’re different players. We needed weapons. That’s just another weapon added to the team and to the offense, and he also brings some value in the return game.”

Daniel Jones has more weapons than ever this year

Many have called this the make or break season for Daniel Jones. His performance might determine whether the front office stays committed to him or starts looking at other options. However, Jones will have more weapons than ever to help him this season.

Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, the leading receivers from the last couple of seasons, are back – and they’re joined by the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. The Giants even added former Bengals pick John Ross, bringing another former first round name to see if he can recover his previous upside.

At the tight end spot, Jones will have two pass catching tight ends in Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph. And of course, Saquon Barkley is expected back for week one. The elusive running back has a reputation for being a weapon in the receiving game, not just on the ground.

This all, however, means there will also be less excuses for Jones. After all, if there’s more poor performances this year, the excuse of not having weapons likely won’t hold up.

For now, though, anyone in the organization will tell you that they have faith in Jones avoiding that pitfall and making a big step up in 2021.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard throws former coaches under bus for lack of conditioning

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard

If you’ve been a New York Giants fan over the past few years, you’ve seen inadequacy and a lack of discipline behind the scenes. Before head coach Joe Judge took over in 2020, Pat Shurmur and Ben McAdoo simply couldn’t control their players and hold him accountable for the mistakes and transgressions they curated.

Ultimately, their inability to control the team and establish a strong culture played a significant part in their firings. However, Judge has completely revitalized this team with disciplinary rules and accountability ranging from the players to the coaches.

Veteran wide receiver sterling Shepard made it very clear that his former coaches lacked in specific areas, especially the conditioning category. In the past, coaches didn’t harp on stamina, or conditioning, which directly translates to games, particularly when playing aggressive football at all times.

Shepard made it clear that Judge has completely transformed that side of the team, ensuring that they are all in tiptop shape, which correlates to preparation for the regular season.

“He’s a tough coach, man. He’s a tough coach, but that’s what we needed. For the previous two coaches, we didn’t do any conditioning or anything like that. But I will say last year was my first year of really having a conditioning.”

The New York Giants needed a leader who held everyone accountable:

The Giants needed a tough coach to whip them into shape simply because they were running rampant before under McAdoo and Shurmur. It didn’t seem like they had any established guidelines for discipline, as they said and did whatever they wanted without any repercussions.

For goodness sake, a veteran wide receiver in victor Cruz went on a boat trip to Miami the weekend before a playoff game in Green Bay with his teammates, one of the coldest cities at that time of the year. They should’ve been training and focused on the game ahead, and it clearly impacted their performance, as Odell Beckham Jr. dropped multiple passes. Overall, this team already has a far more structured end fundamentally sound group of athletes and are focused on winning rather than playing games and wandering off into their own agenda.

What Judge has done with this team in such a short period of time has been tremendous, and hopefully, we continue to see progression during the 2021 season.

Giants’ Sterling Shepard sets goal for 2021 season and talks Daniel Jones

New York Giants receiver, Sterling Shepard.

The New York Giants are hoping to take a significant step forward on offense during the 2021 season. They’ve added a plethora of new talent to the unit, including Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, two elite playmakers who can change the course of a game in the blink of an eye.

However, one of their veteran receivers is hoping to make a similar impact, and he’s more than capable of doing so based on his past production. The 28-year-old Sterling Shepard is hoping to wind back the clock and replicate even his 2018 season, where he posted 872 yards and four touchdowns.

In 2018, Shepard played in all 16 games; his career has been littered with injuries that have derailed him at times and hurt his progression. He’s hoping to remain completely healthy for the 2021 season and show his team that he can be a liable option week in and week out.

“We actually had to write down our goals last week, my number one (goal) was to play all 17 (games),’ Shepard stated on the ‘Oklahoma Breakdown’ podcast. “I have had two seasons where, I think, I’ve missed 8 games…so, I want to get back to playing all 17 to be able to help my teammates out…when you can’t be out there with your brothers, and you see them grinding every day – it’s a bummer.”

Aside from his injury issues in the past, specifically, when it comes to concussions, he’s also dealing with a new quarterback who has yet to learn the NFL and its system. Shepard compared Daniel Jones to Eli Manning and how both processes the game based on either a lack of experience or two Super Bowl wins and 15 years of experience.

“Eli had everything down pat. He was able to tell me my route and then tell three other guys the routes they had to run. It’s a little different with a young guy who is trying to find his way ‘cause he has a lot on his plate…Daniel is a smart guy who wants to be great. He really puts in the work every day – I tip my hat to him, first one in the building, last one to leave and I really appreciate the way he works. He’s made some strides for sure.”

The New York Giants need their veteran WR to step up this season:

Having a quarterback like Manning who understands every single detail about any given play is huge for a receiver trying to learn a new system or needing a bit of help in the heat of battle.

At the end of the day, Jones is still developing and needs more time to refine his mental attributes but also his tangible traits. Sterling did have some nice things to say about Jones and his work ethic, particularly regarding his desire to be great and putting in the work.

If Shep can remain 100% healthy the entire year, he will help his team tremendously on offense, especially with more weapons in the return of Saquon Barkley. Hopefully, he can accomplish the goal he’s set for himself.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard will return to college number this season

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

Going into the 2021 season, the top receiver of the New York Giants from last year will have a different look. It’s not any equipment change, but instead a new number that Shepard will wear for the NFL for the first time after playing with it in college.

That means if you want to get an accurate Shepard jersey for this season, it will have the number 3 on it instead of 87. To make the number change possible, the league rules mandated that Shepard buy out the existing stock of the 87 jerseys – but with his large contract, that didn’t seem to be a problem. And, according to Art Stapleton, the buyout wasn’t as expensive as expected.

Both the team and Shepard have confirmed the jersey change at this point. Once again, he’ll take the field in the same number that he and his father wore while they were Oklahoma Sooners.

Shepard, of course, played all four years at Oklahoma before finishing with over 3,000 receiving yards as well as 26 touchdowns. He was then drafted in the second round by the Giants, but has overperformed based on his draft position and locked up a four year contract in 2019.

Injury problems in the last two seasons ensured that Shepard only played in 10 and 12 games respectively, so this upcoming season will be a big one for the receiver. It’s his chance to prove that he can last a whole year again, like he did in his rookie season and in 2018.

We’ve seen quite a lot of Shepard in 87, but maybe, moving back to number 3 will give enough good luck to put together a better season.

New York Giants rated as second most improved receiving corps

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants came into this offseason with receivers as a large need, but that was mostly addressed through the draft and free agency. In free agency, of course, the team made the big name signing of Kenny Golladay to add a receiver that may very well finish in the top 10 statistically. And in the draft, they added a further weapon with first round pick Kadarius Toney after trading down.

Those improvements earned them the title of second most improved receiving corps by PFF. The only team rated higher happens to be the Giants’ neighbor, the Jets.

The Giants followed that splash free-agent signing by spending their first-round pick on another wide receiver. Per Zack Rosenblatt, Toney said that he models his game after Alvin Kamara, and like Kamara, his after-the-catch ability is rare. That’s something New York needed to add at wide receiver. The Giants’ wide receivers averaged 3.0 yards after the catch per reception in 2020, dead last in the NFL. Toney should help turn that number around.

The article by PFF mentions how Golladay and Toney aren’t the only additions. The Giants also added Kyle Rudolph, and while the signing has been almost forgotten since the start of the offseason, they also brought in 2017 top 10 pick John Ross.

A deep receiving group

Depth isn’t usually associated with the Giants receiving corps in recent years but the organization really does have a deep group this year. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are the top performers from the last couple of seasons, and they both return this year.

With the addition of Golladay as well as Toney, it’s easy to imagine Shepard and Slayton being able to work more effectively. Opposing defenses will be forced to focus on more than just them, and the Giants now have multiple receiving tight ends in Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph.

The pressure will be on for Daniel Jones now that he has more weapons than ever, but ultimately, the Giants have done about as good a job as possible at setting him up to win in 2021.

New York Giants: 3 players they can’t afford to cut for cap relief

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants are going to need to open up salary-cap space if they want to be aggressive in free agency. With the salary cap expected to drop a minimum of $15 million this off-season, teams will be shedding players at an astronomical rate. We will see some quality faces on the free-agent market, and they will likely sign for cheaper deals as they looked to the 2022 offseason to cash in.

With that being said, the Giants would prefer to be active and utilize available money to acquire talented players. However, they are currently $3 million over the cap, indicating they will need to cut a few players to open up some flexibility. With the expectation that they will release Nate Solder, Golden Tate, and a bevy of options that have zero dead cap for next season, there are also players that they should consider retaining.

Three players the New York Giants can’t afford to cut for cap relief:

1.) Sterling Shepard

Recently, the idea has been floated that Sterling Shepard should be a cut casualty. He will count $9 million for the 2021 season, and if the Giants cut him pre-June 1, he would only count $3 million in savings. However, if they cut him post June 1, he would save them $7 million.

Nonetheless, getting rid of Shep would only make their wide receiver position even more tumultuous. He’s one of their best red-zone threats and showed his influence towards the end of the campaign when Jason Garrett finally realized he could be an asset in the red zone and on the outside.

Shepard is a stellar WR2, and if the Giants finally inject some offensive playmakers this off-season, it will only maximize his abilities and finally see his talents put to good use.

2.) Kevin Zeitler

The Giants have a developing offensive line that still needs time to gel. Some have entertained the idea of cutting Kevin Zeitler, saving the Giants $12.5 million in salary space.

However, he is their best lineman and is the only player I consider reliable. If they get rid of him, the Giants will once again be floundering at the guard position, trying to figure out how they can supplement the loss of an above-average player. Cutting him would do more damage than good, and the money they would have to utilize wouldn’t have the same impact as keeping him.

3.) Evan Engram

The only reason I put Evan Engram on this list is because I would rather trade him than cut him. He has zero dead cap for the 2021 season, so the Giants would be saving $6 million by releasing him.

However, given the fact that he’s a Pro Bowl tight end, the Giants could likely fetch a mid-round pick for his services. He’s on the final year of his rookie deal, as the Giants picked up his fifth-year option last season. If they feel they can move on from Engram and still maintain quality at the tight end position, fielding offers would be more beneficial than straight-up cutting him.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard makes top 25 receivers in 2020 PFF list

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard only played in 12 games last season, but it looked like the Giants were getting their money’s worth for the time he was on the field. Shepard was one of the most threatening receivers to opposing defenses in 2020 and at times, it looked like some of his catches made Daniel Jones look better too.

The effort was ultimately one of the saving graces for the Giants during a year when the offense was all around poor, and it earned Shepard some recognition as Pro Football Focus compiled their position rankings for 2020. Shepard just barely made the cut, but was placed in the top 25 for his position.

23. STERLING SHEPARD, NEW YORK GIANTS

Shepard closed out his 2020 campaign with his two best games of the entire season, subsequently squeaking him into the top 25 with a 79.6 PFF grade for the year. He was one of 85 wide receivers to see at least 80 targets this season, and among that group, he was 11th in the percentage of catchable passes caught at 94.3%. Shepard hardly did anything vertically in Jason Garrett’s offense, but he jumped to 16th in receiving grade on non-vertical route targets.

As mentioned in the article, one of the big obstacles for the Giants passing game last season was Jason Garrett’s offense. The Giants didn’t make much happen down the field and the lack of creativity from Garrett allowed defenses to figure the Giants out somewhat. While receivers had trouble getting separation this year, some of the blame has to fall on the staff for not mixing things up and catching defenses off guard with different looks.

Going into the next season, the Giants may or may not have a more vertical threat as their number one wide receiver. However, Shepard should benefit either way from this setup. After all, if defenses are focusing on another player over the top, that opens up more chances for Shepard as a secondary receiver.

And with Darius Slayton not making the jump forward many expected in 2020, Shepard still might be the most reliable receiver the Giants have on the roster right now.

Should the New York Giants prioritize acquiring a slot or outside receiver?

New York Giants, Chris Godwin

The New York Giants confirmed that they will be looking for offensive playmakers this offseason. Daniel Jones needs help. But where will the help come from? Will the Giants sign a wide receiver in free agency or draft someone early on in the 2021 NFL Draft?

More specifically, what kind of receiver will the Giants target? It is a rich free agency class and an arguably richer draft class. But many of the top prospects in each class are slot receivers. Most fans assume New York will go after an outside wide receiver because the roster already includes Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate.

However, Tate is a potential cut candidate, and the inclusion of Sterling Shepard should not prevent the Giants from signing an outside wide receiver. Shepard has been primarily an outside receiver the past two seasons.

In 2020, Shep played 190 snaps in the slot compared to 356 snaps out wide. In the slot, Sterling recorded 20 receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown (only 7.4 yards per reception). Out wide, Shepard totaled 46 receptions for 508 yards and three touchdowns (11.04 yards per reception). Given Sterling Shepard’s efficiency lined up outside, should the Giants consider acquiring an elite slot receiver this offseason? Or should they move Shepard inside and get an elite outside receiver?

Slot or outside wide receiver?

Sterling Shepard was far more efficient while playing outside in 2020. Darius Slayton was inconsistent this season but typically plays on the outside. New York had a rotation in the slot that included Golden Tate, Austin Mack, CJ Board, and Sterling Shepard. Going forward, the Giants will have to reconfigure their wide receiver corps as they look to acquire more talent at the position.

Some of the top free-agent wide receivers this offseason are Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, and Curtis Samuel. Golladay and Robinson are outside wide receivers but Godwin and Samuel are primarily slot receivers. The first pair of receivers will likely cost more money than the second pair, which could make the Giants more attracted to one of those top slot receivers.

Furthermore, in the draft, there is a debate between two of the top receiver prospects. Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, both Alabama products, will be first-round wide receivers in 2021. The Giants are likely to target a wide receiver, but if they go wide receiver in the first round, which one of the two Alabama boys will they prefer?

Whichever player they believe to be better, regardless of whether or not they play inside or outside, is who they should prefer. Smith played primarily outside in college. Waddle operating primarily from the slot. This has fans assuming that the Giants will target Smith and cross Waddle off their list. That is not and should not be the case.

If the Giants believe Waddle is the better player then they should absolutely target him. The Giants need an elite, number one wide receiver. Why must that receiver play outside? It is entirely possible to have your primary receiver play in the slot. Sterling Shepard is efficient at playing outside. When we interviewed his trainer David Robinson on Fireside Giants, Robinson indicated that Shepard is better and more comfortable playing outside.

If the Giants have the opportunity to acquire the likes of Jaylen Waddle or Chris Godwin, they should not shy away from these elite talents just because they are slot receivers. Having your primary receiver play on the outside is not a necessity. The Giants have the personnel to acquire a guy inside or outside. Sterling Shepard could move inside if he has to, but he just might be better off outside.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard rated best player in Baltimore loss

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants fell to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to further muddy their playoff hopes, but one receiver had a standout game individually. Sterling Shepard has been rated the best Giants player from week 16 by Pro Football Focus, thanks to his nine catch performance which saw him pick up 77 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Shepard came through at the same time that fellow wide receiver Darius Slayton only pulled in a couple of receptions for 26 yards. Not the kind of performance that the Giants are expecting of him following his big first year. With Slayton struggling, much of the load has fallen on Shepard this season.

But despite that, Shepard is still on par to have a subpar season compared to his first three. He should avoid a career low in season yardage if he can grab a few catches in the season finale, but the numbers still aren’t looking great.

Some of that has come down to the Giants not having other receivers that can get open and take away attention. Another problem is the offensive line, and earlier in the season, there were more problems with Daniel Jones failing to find his target. All of this has combined to make it a hard year to be a Giants receiver.

Shepard looks like the number one receiver coming into the 2021 season thanks to Slayton slowing down and Golden Tate most likely being off the team. If the Giants don’t decide to cash in while his value is still high and make an offseason trade, that is.

The future remains unclear. But Shepard’s skill has remained consistent even with a poor offensive coordinator and multiple cases of playing under a backup QB this year.

New York Giants: Wide receivers held offense back against Arizona

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants‘ winning streak came to an end on Sunday after a putrid offensive performance against the Arizona Cardinals. New York let up eight sacks and gained only 159 total yards of offense. Daniel Jones played through his hamstring injury and passed for only 127 yards before being pulled for backup Colt McCoy.

All game long, Daniel Jones was struggling to find open receivers to throw to. The Giants’ wide receivers could not separate from coverage on Sunday. They were completely outmatched and they have been for most of this season. The season is far from over, with the Giants only one game out of first place in the NFC East. However, it will be hard for the Giants to slip into the postseason if their receiving corps continues to play at this level.

The 2020 Giants wide receivers

The New York Giants starting wide receivers are Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate. Shepard has been with the Giants the longest but has been held back by injuries over the last few seasons. But now, seemingly fully healthy, Shepard has not opened up the offense the way he was expected to.

Golden Tate is in his second season with the New York Giants. He was signed to a lucrative contract last offseason. Since then, Tate has been in the spotlight for a few of the wrong reasons, such as a PED suspension and a public criticism of the Giants’ offense.

Darius Slayton is the Giants’ second-year wide receiver that was expected to have a breakout 2020 season. That has not happened, though, as Slayton has been entirely unreliable this season. In Week 10, Slayton had 5 receptions for 93 yards. He followed that up with a 0 reception performance in Week 11.

Inconsistency and injuries have held the Giants’ receiving corps back in 2020. But what has held them back the most is a simple lack of talent. Yes, Tate, Shepard, and Slayton are talented receiving options. But no, none of those guys are true number one wide receivers that open up an offense and allow the offense to run through them.

In Week 14, the Giants’ wide receivers failed to separate from coverage. According to Next Gen Stats, the league average receiver separation is 2.86 yards. Golden Tate’s average separation in Week 14 was 0.42 yards. Slayton’s average separation was 1.37 yards. Shepard’s average separation was 1.86 yards. The entirety of the Giants’ receiving corps was far below average on Sunday, making things incredibly difficult for quarterback Daniel Jones.