Sterling Shepard may only be in his second season, but he is primed and ready to lead the receiveing corps if or when other big weapon receivers go down.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sterling Shepard is suddenly the senior member of the Giants' wide receivers corps.
It's only temporary, of course. Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris – as well as Tavarres King – will all return, and the wideout hierarchy will return to normal. But until they do, Shepard is the team's most experienced receiver. Roger Lewis, Jr. is also a second-year pro, albeit one who played much less than Shepard as a rookie. Behind them are rookie free agents and other newcomers, including Travis Rudolph, Jerome Lane, Canaan Severin, Ed Eagan, C.J. Germany and Marquis Bundy. Severin and Eagan were signed last Friday, while Germany and Bundy joined the team yesterday. None of those six receivers has played in an NFL game.
Given all the missing talent, what is Ben McAdoo's plan when the Giants host the Jets in the annual MetLife Bowl Saturday night?
"We are going to deal with the guys who can play," McAdoo said today. "Those are medical decisions, so if guys are available to play versus the Jets, we will play them. If not, we won't."
Shepard will be there. That is not without irony, as he was the first receiver hurt his summer when he rolled his ankle on Aug. 2. He missed the preseason opener vs. Pittsburgh, but played Monday night in Cleveland. Now, he's gone from the player asking questions of veterans to the one fielding queries from those greener than he.
"Man, it is kind of crazy," Shepard said. "With Odell and Brandon going down, Eli (Manning) is like, 'You are the only kind of familiar face I got out there.' That's why I got to play. I got to know my assignments, make sure I know other people's assignments as well. Guys that aren't used to being out there, they are going to be running around, they might not know what to do, so I got to be the leader there. But I think I am ready for it."
The absences of the four receivers has created more practice opportunities for the other receivers. Perhaps none has benefited more than Rudolph, the rookie free agent from Florida State who has most often lined up with Shepard and Lewis when the first team uses three wide receivers.
"Regardless if they are playing or not, I feel like every opportunity is my opportunity to make the most of it," said Rudolph, who had three receptions for 30 yards in the first two games. "I don't look at it like somebody is down, so now it's my time to shine. It's next man up, so once you get put up to the pedestal, you got to take advantage of it. I am just grabbing my opportunity, taking it a day at a time, and just getting quality reps."
"Travis is coming along great," said the new Mr. Experienced, Shepard. "He is a guy that picks up the system pretty fast. Pretty fast learner, so he shouldn't have any problems. But if something comes up in the game they are not sure about, Roger knows what he is doing so, that won't be an issue. Just got to make sure Travis has everything down pat and make sure if he has any questions, we know what we are doing."
The recently-signed players are learning as quickly as they can so they can contribute in the game.
"That is going to be rough," Shepard said. "They have been doing a little extra time, staying in the building, getting the system down. At least the basics so that they can run the plays."
*McAdoo's latest update on Beckham, sidelined with a sprained ankle, was the same one he offered yesterday.
"He's got an ankle," McAdoo said. "He is working through some treatment. We will see how he responds to it tomorrow."
*Marshall (shoulder) didn't practice, but stood on the field with his teammates.
"He is able to be out here with his teammates, so he is getting some mental reps," McAdoo said.
*Cornerback Valentino Blake left the team yesterday to deal with personal issues. "We are going to give him some time and space to deal with those," McAdoo said. Asked about Blake's performance, McAdoo said, "I thought Blake was having a good camp."
Photos of WR Sterling Shepard during the 2016 season