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Giants’ WR Sterling Shepard uncertain about timetable for return

What can Giants expect from veteran receiver, who is rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon

NFL: New York Giants Minicamp
Sterling Shepard during minicamp.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

How much production should the New York Giants expect from veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard in 2022? The answer, of course, depends on how much Shepard is available during the upcoming season.

Let’s discuss Shepard, the last vestige of the Giants’ roster of the 2016 playoff team, as we continue our play-by-player profiles.

By the numbers

Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 201
Age: 29
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: 6
Contract: One-year, $3 million | 2022 cap hit: $4.245 million

Career to date

Shepard has always been a good player. Not a great one. Not a No. 1 receiver who commands double teams and makes plays, anyway, but a good one. He has always been productive, whether used in the slot or out wide.

Shepard has averaged 4.8 receptions per game for his career, and has been above 5.0 catches per game in four of his six seasons. He has a 66.9 catch percentage when targeted, and has never been below 61.7 percent. In only one season, 2020, did Shepard’s yards per catch dip below 10.0.

The one thing — on the field — Shepard has never really done well is create yards after the catch. He has a career average in that department of 3.9 yards. Last season, his 3.3 yards after catch was 74th among 94 qualifying receivers. For comparison, Kadarius Toney averaged 6.0 yards after the catch in 2021.

Last season, when the offense was broken and he played in only seven games, was the first time in his career his passer rating when targeted (62.3) fell below 80.0. The 2021 season was likely the roughest of his career. He missed time twice last season with a hamstring injury, then tore an Achilles tendon in December. Shepard had a career-worst drop percentage of 12.2 in 2021, dropping five catchable targets.

Health has always been Shepard’s biggest issue. He has only played a full season twice in six seasons, appearing in just 72 of 96 regular-season games. Over the past three seasons, the health issue has gotten worse. Shepard has appeared in 10, 12 and 7 games over the past three years, just 29 of a potential 49.

2022 outlook

Shepard is rehabbing his torn Achilles and spent the spring on the sideline catching balls off a JUGGS machine and doing some limited mobility work. He told the team’s official website that he doesn’t know when he will be back on the field.

“I’m feeling great,” said Shepard, who isn’t putting a timetable on his return to the lineup. “I’ve been working my tail off with the training staff, doing everything that they ask of me and doing a little extra on my own as well.

“It gets overwhelming at times. You’re doing the same thing over and over again. You can get lost in it or you could just fall in love with the process, and that’s just what I’ve been trying to do. Just fall in love with it and get that strength back.”

The Giants, with a new GM in Joe Schoen and new head coach in Brian Daboll, could simply have cut Shepard this offseason. Instead, the negotiated a pay cut, a one-year $3 million deal that lowered his cap hit from $12.495 million to $6.3 million.

Schoen and Daboll obviously see the value in keeping Shepard around as they try to rebuild the Giants, both for his leadership and for the production he will offer whenever he is available to play.

How much that will be, and whether Shepard remains a Giants beyond 2022, is anybody’s guess.