EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The football gods have again dealt Sterling Shepard and the Giants a cruel blow, under circumstances shockingly like their last assault.
Shepard, the Giants seven-year wide receiver, longest-tenured player, and beloved teammate, tore his left anterior cruciate ligament with 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 23-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium Monday night. He suffered the injury nine months and seven days after tearing his left Achilles tendon – with 1:26 left in the final quarter of a defeat to Dallas in MetLife Stadium.
After leading the team with five receptions for 49 yards in the game, gaining a team-high 154 yards on 13 catches in the first three weeks and scoring the Giants' only touchdown by a wide receiver this season, Shepard will go on injured reserve and miss the final 14 games.
It is a difficult blow for anyone in the organization to accept.
"To reiterate what I said yesterday, he's a tremendous person," coach Brian Daboll said. "He worked so diligently to get back, and (I) feel terrible for him that he had that injury. He's a big part of our team, and we'll miss him out on the field."
Making the injury even more unfathomable is that for the second straight year, Shepard was hurt in a non-contact situation. On second down from the Giants' 16-yard line, he was split wide right. At the snap, Shepard ran straight down the field, loosely covered by cornerback Anthony Brown. When Daniel Jones threw a pass to the left middle of the field that was intercepted by Trevon Diggs, Brown moved in that direction. Shepard, with no one near him, fell to the ground in pain.
"He's just slowing down," Daboll said. "It could have happened, I'm not saying it happened, you see a couple of plays before where he turns when he's running an in-cut and he's extended. He went out there on the next play and did something. Again, that looked like a freaky accident there."
As it did last year when the Giants had the ball on the Cowboys' 14-yard line. It was second down. Shepard was wide to the left side before moving behind Kenny Golladay. When the play began, Shepard took one step and immediately went down, grabbing his left leg.
The Giants had issues at wide receiver even before Shepard's injury. Kadarius Toney, the team's 2021 first-round draft choice, was inactive last night with a hamstring injury and has two catches for zero yards this season. Promising rookie Wan'Dale Robinson missed the last two games with a knee injury. Golladay did not catch a pass last night (he did have a 20-yard reception nullified by Shepard's pass interference penalty) and had two drops.
Who will the Giants now look to?
"The guys that we have," Daboll said. "Those guys are going to have to continue to work hard, build trust with the quarterback. They'll be practicing, and hopefully we make some strides in that area."
Five days out, Daboll does not know if Toney and/or Robinson will be in uniform when the Giants host the Chicago Bears Sunday.
"They're getting closer," Daboll said. "Will they be ready this week? I can't answer that yet. And from the meeting I just had with the doctors, they're getting closer. But we're not out of the blue yet with it."
Golladay caught two passes for 22 yards in the season opener in Tennessee and none since. He played only two snaps last week vs. Carolina and was shut out in 24 snaps last night. The last pass thrown to him was on a third-and-13 from the Giants' 22 with. 7:44 left. Jones put the ball right on the numbers, but Golladay dropped it, and the Giants punted.
"He had a couple of opportunities there to go ahead and make plays," Daboll said. "I thought he played with good effort. Obviously, we'd like to finish the play at the end of that drive in the fourth quarter, and I know he would like to, too. Again, he did the things that we asked him to do in terms of being in the right spot; and now we just got to work on finishing those things."
Daboll was asked how he can help make Golladay "someone who is contributing to winning efforts."
"The same thing we try to do with all our guys," he said. "Go out there, install the gameplan with them, work as hard as he can work, build trust with the quarterback and when he has opportunities to make plays, he goes out and makes them.
"He's trying to put his best foot forward, work as hard as he can and I'd say that you got to, again, be consistent with what we're doing and keep on improving. And I know he'll try to do that."
Given their unsettled situation at wideout, it's possible the Giants will look to acquire someone who can help.
"(General manager) Joe (Schoen) is always looking and his staff," Daboll said. "But we have those guys right now who we have. And we're going to expect them to come out here, keep improving, work hard. We have a couple guys on our practice squad (Kalil Pimpleton and Marcus Johnson) right now that maybe they come into play; they've been picking up our stuff. So, we'll see as we go."
View photos from the Giants' Week 3 game against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.