For the Giants' wide receiving corps, everything that could go wrong did in 2017.
In Week 5 last year against the Los Angeles Chargers, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris all went down with season-ending injuries. In the same game, Sterling Shepard suffered an ankle sprain that lingered for the remainder of the season. Shepard still managed to lead the Giants with 731 receiving yards and finished second with 59 catches in 11 games played.
Last year is last year though, and as the Giants enter training camp to gear up for the 2018 season, perhaps no unit is looking to put last year's adversity behind more so than the receivers.
"As long as we're winning games, I don't really care how it comes together," Shepard said. "I just don't want to have another season like last year, so whoever gets the ball, I know that you can trust in them to make big plays."
That's where we continue our 2018 summer position series. With the start of training camp just days away, Giants.com today looks at the wide receivers. They are coached by Tyke Tolbert, who enters his 15th NFL season and first with Big Blue. Tolbert spent the previous six years with the Denver Broncos in the same role. Like Beckham, Tolbert played his college ball at LSU from 1988-1990.
ODELL BECKHAM JR.: Speaking of Beckham, let's start there. Selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Beckham didn't take long to establish himself as one of the premier receivers in the game, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and setting numerous franchise records, including receptions (91), receiving yards (1,305) and most games with 100+ receiving yards (7).
Three trips to the Pro Bowl and two second-team All Pro selections later, Beckham enters 2018, his 5th NFL season, looking to bounce back after a fractured ankle cut his 2017 short after just four games. Beckham was on the field at OTAs and minicamp this spring as he works his way back from offseason surgery.
"I think we're just still getting to know each other," head coach Pat Shurmur said during minicamp. "But I've said it before, this guy loves to play football, and he gets it as well. So, when I see him in the meetings, when I see him on the field, regardless of what he's doing, when I see him on the field he's really engaged and you can see, just by him running routes versus air and some of the drill work we're doing, that he can really help us."
STERLING SHEPARD: Primarily a slot receiver his first two years with the Giants, Shepard saw plenty of reps this spring lined up on the outside. Like the rest of the personnel on offense, the 24-year-old is adjusting to the new scheme of coach Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
"You can call me an inside receiver, but in this offense you kind of have to know every single position, because you'll be stuck anywhere on the field, so I like that about it," Shepard said. "It just kind of gives some diversity to the offense and keeps the defense guessing."
Shurmur's offense certainly kept defenses guessing in Minnesota. As the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2017, Shurmur guided receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen for a combined 12 touchdown catches and 2,125 receiving yards, second only to Pittsburgh Steelers' duo Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
"You get a chance to run after the catch, especially in this offense," Shepard said. "Coach Shurmur does a good job of just getting guys open. The schemes are crazy, and yeah, we're looking good."
ROGER LEWIS JR.: Like Shepard, Roger Lewis Jr.'s number was called upon last season after the injury bug hit. Lewis responded with career highs in receptions (36), receiving yards (416) and targets (72). Lewis also added a pair of touchdown receptions to his stat sheet. His most clutch catch of the season came in Week 11, when he slid for a 34-yard grab in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs that set up a game-winning field goal. The third-year receiver has shown strong chemistry this spring with both Manning and Davis Webb working with the first and second-team offense.
CODY LATIMER: Cody Latimer is a familiar face to Tolbert, having spent his entire four-year career in Denver. The 25-year old signed with the Giants in March, reuniting with his longtime receivers coach. Playing behind the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Latimer's time on the field in Denver was limited over the course of his four pro seasons. The Dayton, Ohio native started only three games, catching 25 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is looking to make more of an impact with Big Blue.
"It's been great," Latimer said during OTAs. "I've been with Tyke my whole career. Being able to move here with him has been amazing. I'm glad they put their trust in me and to bring me here. It's been great learning this new offense. It's very explosive, throwing the rock around and getting well-adjusted to it. I've been in a couple offenses so it is something that catches on easy for me. It is an everyday process. We are all still learning and started at ground zero. We're doing a good job and everything is coming together."
TRAVIS RUDOLPH: Travis Rudolph signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. The Florida State product had a standout preseason, leading the club with nine receptions for 157 yard on 14 targets. He was waived at the end of the preseason, but was signed to the practice squad before the start of the regular season. Rudolph was promoted to the 53-man roster prior to the Giants Week 6 game in Denver. The 22-year-old finished his rookie season with eight catches for 101 yards, while also seeing some action on special teams.
RUSSELL SHEPARD: The "other" Shepard in the receiver's room, Russell signed with the Giants in May a week after he was released by the Carolina Panthers. Shepard has played five seasons in the NFL. Before he was with the Panthers, Shepard was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2013-16. He has played in 72 regular-season games with nine starts, and caught 47 passes for 634 yards and four touchdowns. He also has 39 career special teams' tackles. Shepard entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in Philadelphia in 2013. The Houston native was a college teammate of Beckham where he played receiver, running back and quarterback for the Tigers.
KALIF RAYMOND: The Giants signed Raymond to their practice squad last October. He was released later that month, but re-signed the next day. Raymond was promoted to the active roster in November and was active for six games down the stretch for Big Blue. On the season, Raymond finished with one catch for 12 yards. The former track star at Holy Cross saw most of his playing time in the return game. Raymond had 13 punt returns for 61 yards and 11 kickoff returns for 186 yards (16.9 average).
HUNTER SHARP: Sharp signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He also spent time that year on the Broncos practice squad. The Giants signed the 24-year-old off the Broncos practice squad last December. Sharp played in two games down the stretch, catching five passes for 54 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown from Manning in the Giants regular-season finale, an 18-10 win over the Redskins. Sharp also returned eight punts and one kickoff last year, and worked as a returner this spring. Like Latimer, Sharp was coached by Tolbert during his time in Denver. Sharp has seen reps as the third receiver with the first team during OTAs.
"It means everything to me," Sharp said during OTAs. "So I'm just taking it day by day and putting my best foot forward, trying not to make any mistakes, playing fast and doing my best. It's been going pretty good. I've been picking up the offense well. Physically, I'm in good shape right now, so I've been trying to catch everything and just get better every day.
ALONZO RUSSELL: The Giants signed Russell in May as a free agent. Russell, 6-4 and 210 pounds, was signed as a rookie free agent by Cincinnati from Toledo in 2016. He spent that entire season on the Bengals' practice squad. He spent the last six weeks of the 2017 season on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad. In four seasons at Toledo, Russell played in 50 games and had 202 receptions for 3,076 yards (15.2-yard avg.) and 24 touchdowns.
MARQUIS BUNDY: Bundy signed to the Cardinals practice squad as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft. Bundy signed with the Giants practice squad the following summer. The Phoenix native was promoted to the active roster last December, and saw action during the Giants' regular-season finale. With Beckham continuing to rehab from last year's ankle surgery, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver is one of many who took advantage of his opportunity this spring, getting the chance to work with Manning on the first team.
JAWILL DAVIS: The Giants signed Davis after this year's draft. Davis played in 47 games with 29 starts in five seasons at Bethune-Cookman (he was granted a medical hardship after missing most of the 2014 season with an injury). He caught 106 passes for 1,692 yards (16.0-yard avg.) and 10 touchdowns. In 2015, Davis played in 100 games and had a career high 39 receptions for 788 yards and six scores. Davis started 10 games last season, registering 36 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns.
AMBA ETTA-TAWO: Amba Etta-Tawo signed to the Giants practice squad last December. The 6-foot-1, 208 pound receiver entered the NFL this year as a rookie free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was waived at the end of training camp and spent the season's first two weeks on the Jaguars' practice squad. From Oct. 11 to Nov. 7, Etta-Tawo was on the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad. Etta-Tawo played at the University of Maryland before finishing his collegiate career as a graduate transfer at Syracuse in 2016. In his only season with the Orange, he set 10 school records, including those for receptions (94), receiving yards (1,482) and receiving yards per game (123.5).