The New York Giants had one of their worst years in franchise history last season. This season they are looking to bounce back with their robust offense and Giants quarterback Eli Manning believes one young receiver is ready to elevate his game.
Manning’s offense features a ton of weapons. This offseason the Giants added more talent by drafting Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the draft, drafting offensive lineman Will Hernandez and signing veteran tackle Nate Solder.
Those players join an offense which includes; Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. Out of all these athletic playmakers, Manning sounds most excited about the former Oklahoma Sooner receiver, Shepard.
He has a ton of faith in the third-year wideout and believes he will have a great 2018.
“I thought Sterling had a great camp during the spring,” Manning said. “He’s understanding the coverages, understanding the route combinations, he understands zone and man, and how to make little moves to get open against different techniques.”
Shepard was drafted by the Giants in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. In two seasons he caught 124 passes for 1,414 yards and 10 scores. Last season, Shepard only played in 11 games because of injury, but played a big role in the Giants’ offense once star receiver, Beckham injured his ankle.
Despite playing in fewer games than he did in his rookie season, he compiled more yards. Based on his 66.5 yards per game, if he had played in all 16 games he would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.
He was a reliable option for Manning and caught 70% of his passes thrown to him. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked second in the NFL in contested catches last season, only behind Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs.
The other receivers included in the top-five are, Demaryius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Mohamed Sanu. Out of all the players, Shepard played the least amount of games, but his ranking shows how efficient he was. He was also considered one of the most productive players at his position from the slot in 2017.
The addition of Barkley, return of Beckham and nightmare match-up that Engram posses, only means more opportunities for Shepard. Teams will predominantly game plan against a healthy Beckham, focus on Barkley in the backfield and that will allow Shepard to go under the radar.
Shepard has the quickness to create separation and make nothing into something with his speed and elusiveness. He has the support of the team’s leader and made the best of a terrible season by showcasing his skill set in limited action.
2017 may have been a disaster for the New York Giants, but 2018 shows a ton of potential and Shepard could be a huge factor in the Giants’ success.