Sterling Shepard is looking like the real deal, and a player who can help transform the New York Giants from good into something special.
A second round pick out of Oklahoma, Shepard is the slot receiver the Giants needed to help balance their passing game. With the rookie in the slot, pressure is taken off of All-Pro Odell Beckham, a necessary addition to keep defenses from shifting to Beckham’s side of the field. The fact that he is a fluid route runner who can get good separation makes him a solid addition to the passing game.
That he is dynamic in the open field makes him a downright threat, especially with a proven quarterback like Eli Manning throwing him the ball.
Now, after three weeks of going up against teammates, Shepard will get the chance on Friday to put the pads on for the first time as a professional. The Giants open their preseason against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.
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“Yeah, it is just like the saying, ‘you practice like you play’, so I try to give it 100 percent effort at practice all the time because it truly does show up in the games, so I expect that,” Shepard said.
The knock on Shepard is that he is small but he’s a perfect fit for the Giants in the slot. He’s also a tough competitor, bringing some bite to the receiving corps as well as being a good downfield blocker.
If Victor Cruz can remain healthy, then the Giants passing game can be a top unit and offset questions along the offensive line.
Shepard also might be able to make an impact on special teams, despite not doing much in college with the unit. Because he boasts good speed (Shepard ran a 4.48 at the NFL Combine in March) and shiftiness, it would simply be another way for the Giants to potentially get the ball in his hands in the open field.
“It is just different technique, just different things with the special teams. I didn’t do much in college. I did punt return,” Shepard said. “They have me doing some things out here that is new to me, but I am getting it down, I am still learning and it is coming along.”