Giants rookie receiver Shepard making big contributions
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Odell Beckham Jr. didn't do a very good job of keeping New York Giants rookie Sterling Shepard under the radar in training camp.
The Giants' biggest playmaker and fellow receiver said that Shepard was going to have a phenomenal first season and that he was going to be the league's rookie of the year.
Two weeks into the season, Shepard is doing everything that Beckham said he would.
The Giants' second-round pick from Oklahoma has caught 11 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. His reception total is one less than Beckham's team-leading total and his yardage is one more than Beckham's total.
''I knew it was going to be rough at first, just getting the playbook down and everything, but once I got that down, I was ready,'' Shepard said Thursday after the Giants (2-0) practiced for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins (0-2).
''I knew I was ready for this. I feel like this is what I was born to do, so I am excited. I can't wait for the rest of the season.''
Shepard has been somewhat of the beneficiary of playing with Beckham. Opponents have doubled Beckham more often than not and that has left the rookie and fellow receiver Victor Cruz in single coverage.
How long that continues remains to be seen.
Shepard said that he didn't see anything different from the Saints when they played last weekend.
''It is kind of hard to tell this early,'' Shepard said. ''Everybody has been playing their base defense.
''There has been a lot of help on Odell's side, so I feel like we have to do a better job, just to get some of those guys off of him and give him some breathing room, so we just have to continue to do what we have been doing and keep preparing the way we have been preparing.''
Quarterback Eli Manning has worked well with Shepard, a 5-foot-10 player who looks solid at just under 200 pounds. He has thrown the ball his way 12 times and failed to get a reception only once, hitting all eight against New Orleans for 117 yards.
Shepard has turned into a big third-down target with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He had a big third-down catch near midfield to keep the final drive alive.
It ended with Josh Brown's field goal on the final play of the 16-13 win.
''I love third downs,'' Shepard said. ''It is a chance that we have to stay on the field, so I am definitely licking my chops every time it is third down, we need something big.
''That is the way it has been playing out. I have been beating my guy and getting open, trying to find little gaps in the zone, that is just the way it has been working out and hopefully that continues and like I said, I love third down.''
Cruz, whose clutch 34-yard catch gave New York a first-and-goal on the final drive, knew about Shepard before the Giants took him in the draft.
Sitting out last season, he watched a lot of college football.
''I knew his skill set from watching Oklahoma,'' Cruz said. ''He has come in and continued what he did at Oklahoma, so it's not been a big surprise.''
Shepard could get a different taste of the NFL if Redskins cornerback Josh Norman lines up against him and subjects him to his physical, trash-talking style of play.
''I have been dealing with the same type of corners in college,'' Shepard said. ''I just never really focus on what other people are doing.
''I just focus on what we have to do as a team to win and that is all that we need to focus on, we don't need to focus on all of the outside stuff that is going on, or what somebody else is doing.''
NOTES: Rookie S Darian Thompson joined OT Marshall Newhouse and DT Robert Thomas in not practicing. He is being listed as week to week. ... RB Rashad Jennings was limited against Thursday with a hand injury. ... Expect Nat Berhe to start for Thompson.
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