After a season during which their linebacking corps was injured and largely ineffective the New York Giants took a volume approach to trying to get better at that level of the defense. They drafted B.J. Goodson in the fourth round, re-signed Jasper Brinkley and added veterans Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard in free agency.
Today, we look at Sheppard as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp later this month.
2015 Season in Review
Sheppard, 27, is a five-year veteran who started 13 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2015. He had 105 combined tackles, a career high, and two passes defensed. A 2011 third-round pick by the Buffalo Bills, Sheppard spent two years with the Bills, one year with the Indianapolis Colts and the last two years with the Dolphins. He has made 46 starts in 77 career regular-season games.
Sheppard played middle linebacker for the Dolphins last season.
Here is what Kevin Nogle of SB Nation's Dolphins web site, The Phinsder, told us when the Giants signed the former Miami linebacker:
Sheppard spent two years with the Dolphins, working primarily as a special teams player in 2014. He was installed as the starting middle linebacker in 2015, and he was a solid player. He was second on the team in tackles, and he was out there every single week in a year in which the Dolphins struggled with injuries to their linebackers. He is not going to be spectacular, but he is going to be around the ball, he is going to make tackles, and he is going to be a solid all-around player. The Dolphins felt they could upgrade the linebacker positions all around this year, especially at middle linebacker, and that is why they allowed Sheppard to leave without re-signing him. He is not a "field general" type of linebacker, but he will be able to fill a position and should not have too many mistakes.
A rival blog, PhinPhanatic, was much less complementary toward Sheppard, grading him at D- for the season and saying flatly "it's time to let another team employ him." Here is a little more:
2015 was not a very good year for Sheppard. While his play elevated in the final three weeks of the year, well after the team was eliminated from the post-season, Sheppard was largely ineffective as the teams inside linebacker.
PFF rated Sheppard as the 84th linebacker in the league with a a paltry 38.8 grade. He was horrible against the run, rating out at 34.8 and only marginally better in coverage at 40.9.
2016 Season Outlook
This one truly is a mystery. The Giants have Brinkley, Robinson and Sheppard as veteran middle linebackers, and Goodson in what will likely be a learning season. Brinkley has a slight edge as this is his second season in the defensive scheme, but right now there is no telling how this shakes out.
Sheppard could end up as the starting MIKE. He could end up as a reserve, playing special teams and filling in at MIKE or WILL. He could end up getting cut. It seems like the entire linebacker group, with the exception of Devon Kennard and Goodson, could be on the bubble.
Training camp and reps in preseason games will clarify the picture. Right now, though, Sheppard's role is a great big question mark.