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Sterling Shepard adjusts to new offense

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sterling Shepard has grown accustomed to the constant change in his life.

It began last Oct. 4, when the Giants' wide receiver corps was decimated by injuries, and Shepard suddenly became the team's most experienced wideout (after missing two games with his own ankle injury).

In March, he married model Chanel Iman. The couple's first child is due on Aug. 19.

"Right in the middle of training camp – you can tell we didn't plan it very well," Shepard said today. "Last year I didn't have a wife, and I didn't have a baby on the way. A lot has changed, but I think it's for the better. It settles me down a little bit."

Like all of the Giants players, Shepard is also undergoing a transformation on the field. With a new coaching staff headed by Pat Shurmur, the offense, defense and special teams are all learning new schemes. That means they must scrub the old systems from their memory bank.

"It gets very difficult when you have the same terminology, but it's a different scheme," Shepard said. "You're thinking about the whole thing, but it's a different play. But it just comes with repetition and being in the room with those guys and listening to the coach.

"I got the terminology – it's more the lining up and the formations and the play call. There are a whole bunch of different formations that we have in this offense."

Shepard's first two seasons were spent largely in the slot. But this spring he has often lined up on the outside.

"In this offense, you kind of have to learn every single piece, because you can be moved around," he said. "Then when we're going fast, you can pretty much line up anywhere. You have to know everything, you have to be able to run routes from the inside and outside."

Shepard was a second-year pro in 2017 when he suddenly became the leading wide receiver after Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall suffered season-ending injuries vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. He missed a total of five games, but led the Giants with 731 receiving yards and finished second with 59 catches.

Marshall's contract was terminated last month and Beckham has been limited to individual drills in the team's offseason program. Of the 11 other receivers on the current roster, two (Russell Shepard and Cody Latimer) have more experience than Shepard. Only Beckham has more than Shepard's 124 catches. But the third-year pro said the young receivers' eyes are in him as intently as they were last year.

"It's a new offense for all of us, so it's like you're starting at ground zero." He said. "Everybody is trying to get down the plays and where to line up. They're looking at me during the individual period, I'm sure, but when it comes to the scheme everybody is trying to learn."

Shepard said the most noticeable difference from last year actually occurs before the ball is snapped.

"We're in the huddle," he said. "That's like the number one thing. I haven't been in the huddle since I've been in the NFL. Well, even in college, I wasn't in the huddle, so that's the biggest thing for me, but it's looking good so far."

*Shurmur has been lauded throughout his NFL coaching career for his work with quarterbacks, including Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford, and Case Keenum. He is very impressed with his newest quarterback, Eli Manning.

"He looks great," Shurmur said. "He's doing great. He is a joy to coach. A quarterback that is engaged at the level that he is is a lot of fun. Things are constantly changing. Plays change on the move, adjustments are being made. Within a practice, you might see something that you didn't think you would see. He is able to make an adjustment. He has been a lot of fun."

*Last year, B.J. Goodson started all seven games in which he played at middle linebacker in the Giants' 4-3 defense. New coordinator James Bettcher's base defense is a 3-4, so Goodson has another inside linebacker – Alec Ogletree – lining up next to him.

"It's nice," Goodson said. "I enjoy it, I'm enjoying it, embracing it and it's fun. I like it.

"It's like having another MIKE in the game. It's a difference and it makes it take a little bit of pressure off."

Goodson missed nine games with shin and ankle injuries, but still finished sixth on the team with 52 tackles (37 solo). He had at least four tackles in every game he played, including 18 (14 solo) in the season opener in Dallas. But after missing seven of the last nine games, he's looking for a fresh start.

"Today is my (25th) birthday – a clean slate, but just pressing forward, day-after-day and obviously today is a great day," Goodson said. "I'm feeling great and that's all that matters – pressing forward day-by-day and getting better."

Shurmur said of Goodson, "I think he has been doing really well out here."

*Shurmur was asked about the NFL's new policy regarding the national anthem, which mandates that all players and team personnel must stand when it is played. But players can choose to remain in the locker room until the anthem is completed.

"We have not discussed it as a team," Shurmur said. "We're going to sort of let it settle for a little bit here. It's like any new rule, this is a new policy and I certainly trust that our players are going to do the right thing. I think that we just let it settle for a minute. At some point, we'll discuss it, but we just haven't done it yet. I know certainly for me, it's very easy. I'm going to face the flag and take my cap off and listen to the anthem and be thankful that my family and I live in the greatest country in the world, and be able to kind of reflect on and be thankful for all the sacrifice that a lot of people have gone to, to help protect and secure our freedom. So that's what it means to me. And again, I think at some point, we'll talk about it as a team and I trust that our team will do the right thing."

*Shurmur has been impressed with Ereck Flowers, who has switched to right tackle after playing his first three seasons on the left side.

"He's actually done a really good job," Shurmur said. "He's an excellent athlete and he's handling the move pretty seamlessly. … Through the first two weeks of his training, I think he's made improvements."

Photos from the Giants fourth OTA practice!