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WR Shepard remains integral part of offense

Posted Nov 29, 2016

QB Eli Manning will look to get WR Sterling Shepard more involved in the offense.

Sterling Shepard is second on the Giants with 44 receptions, 476 yards and five touchdowns. But in the team’s 27-13 victory Sunday in Cleveland, Shepard not only didn’t catch a pass, he didn’t have one thrown his way by Eli Manning.

That omission seems to bother the veteran quarterback more than it does the rookie wide receiver.

“I talked to him,” Manning said. “I apologized for not getting him a catch. We need to get him the ball and get him catches. That’s just the way the day kind of went. He’s done a good job all year and we have to get him involved in the offense.”

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Shepard said Manning approached him today in the weight room.

“He didn’t have to apologize to me,” Shepard said. “He just said, ‘You are a big part of the offense and we need to get you involved.’ He was just apologizing to me, but it is all good.”

Shepard knows that he will likely play a much bigger role in the offense when the Giants visit the Steelers this week in Pittsburgh, one reason he reacted to the surprise shutout with the maturity of a 10-year veteran.

“I know that I am going to be able to touch the ball, especially next game and moving forward,” Shepard said. “That is why I am not making a big deal about it. It was kind of weird because I usually get that first touch and get hit the first time, and I hadn’t had that feeling and I was like, ‘Ah.’ But I know it is going to be alright and we came out with the W, so that is all that matters at the end of the day.”

Shepard had caught at least two passes in each of the first 10 games. The previous week against Chicago, he had a game-high five catches (as did Odell Beckham, Jr. and Rashad Jennings) and scored a touchdown for the third game in a row.
But in Cleveland, Manning never found him. Not that opportunities were plentiful. The Giants completed just 15 passes, less than four a quarter. Beckham was targeted 11 times and led the team with six receptions and two touchdowns. The other wideouts – Victor Cruz, Roger Lewis, Jr., and Dwayne Harris – caught one pass apiece.

“It’s just all based on coverage,” Manning said. “What we were trying to do and the coverages that we were getting, we had other guys that were the primary. We just didn’t get it down to him (Shepard). Had a couple of opportunities that we could’ve possibly got him the ball.”

Shepard said the zero next to his name on the stat sheet did nothing to dent his confidence.

“Not at all,” he said. “I can only control what I can control and that is running routes and getting open. So that is what I have to continue to do.

“I feel like I did everything like I was supposed to. It is just the way it goes sometimes. You have Odell having a big day and we came out with the W. The fact (is) it was a win, so I don’t want to make a big deal out of it."

*Guard Justin Pugh said he aggravated his knee injury when he was rolled up on in practice last week. But he blamed himself.

“I went out there and did individuals and I was feeling good and I was like, ‘Can I get some team reps?’” Pugh said. “And the first one I went out there I did two one-on-ones and felt good and then I went out there for another team rep and kind of got rolled up. My knee wasn't ready to go back out and be out there. It is what it is. That's me trying to get back too quick and it was a learning experience for me. I've never had this type of injury.”

Pugh sprained his knee against Philadelphia on Nov. 6 and has missed the last three games. He said it’s too soon to say if he will miss a fourth in Pittsburgh.

I wouldn't say no way for Sunday, but I wouldn't say 100 percent I'm in for Sunday,” Pugh said. “It really is how my knee responds to going out and doing more and more. I know for sure I'm not going try and push it too much, because I don't want to keep having setbacks and missing extra weeks. So I'm going to make sure I'm 100 percent and doing it the right way.”

*The Giants had an esteemed visitor at practice today – Manning’s older brother Peyton, who spoke to the team after the workout. Peyton Manning retired after leading the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl 50 in February. Peyton Manning matched his younger brother by winning his second Super Bowl.

“It was good to have him here,” Eli Manning said. “I hadn’t seen him in a while. He has something to do tomorrow, so he popped in and sat in on a few meetings with us today. Just good to catch up. I’ll get some time with him later on.”

*Eli was asked how retirement is treating his brother.

“I think he’s doing well,” he said. “He seems to be staying busy and enjoying the down time. I think when he gets in this environment, he was kind of drilling the coaches with his own questions. I know he liked being in there and doing a little install on Pittsburgh. I’m sure he misses that environment. Just the game plan, how you’re going to do things, how you’re going to deal with protections, how you’re going to pick things up. Just really getting back into that flow of things, I’m sure, is a little reminder of how special it is to be in this situation.”