All spring and summer long we have written about New York Giants second-round pick, Sterling Shepard. We’ve speculated about how his advanced route running would translate to the NFL, written about how smooth he looked in OTAs and minicamp and reported the rave reviews he’s gotten from his teammates and the Giants’ coaching staff.
The praise continued from the Giants’ head coach on Saturday, with McAdoo saying "He seems like a young pro. He seems like a young man who is committed to his craft." That was after the Giants’ first team practice and Shepard faced the Giants’ starting corners.
Perhaps it’s that commitment to his craft that is driving Shepard to look for coaching and advice not only from his coaches, but also from his teammates.
"It means a lot," Shepard said, when asked how important it was to get advice from Odell Beckham and Eli Manning. "Those guys have had a lot of success in the league so, you know, having those guys be able to coach me up on some stuff. It’s great to have those guys alongside of you, they’ve had a lot of success."
That coaching however, doesn’t seem to be harsh with Shepard saying that "This group isn’t really about yelling." Admittedly, it would be difficult to picture Manning getting in a rookie’s face on the second day of training camp. "It’s just coaching you up, and trying to get it right the next time." Shepard said, "The big thing with me is just trying not to make the same mistake twice. So if something does happen, just be able to correct it and be a pro about it."
That professional attitude was one of the things that attracted the Giants to him in the draft. Another is his versatility. While draft evaluators pigeonholed Shepard as strictly a slot receiver — based in large part on his size — he showed the ability to win wherever he was lined up at Oklahoma. That versatility is something the Giants value, and McAdoo actively looks to play a shell game (of sorts) with his receivers and move them around the offensive formation.
"I’m pretty comfortable," Shepard said when asked about his comfort level at the different spots he is being asked to learn. "I’m still trying to learn, I’m still trying to get the offense down. But it’s coming along, I feel a lot more comfortable than when I first came in here at rookie mini-camp."
Where does he feel most comfortable, you may ask. Shepard responded with confidence. "Everywhere. Wherever they put me. I’ve been feeling good going outside, when Vic (Victor Cruz) comes in he’ll go in, we’re just kind of switching around. But I feel comfortable out there. Still getting the plays down, but it’ll come. I’ll feel more comfortable as time goes on."
So Shepard is a lot more comfortable than he was a couple months ago, and still getting more comfortable. It’s expected, but it also begs the question ‘Where is he making the biggest strides?’
"It’s kinda hard to say because it’s so early, but just learning the plays and how to run different routes." Shepard answered. "You know, you have a way of running a route in college, but it’s a lot different in the League. That’s what he was saying before, having guys like Odell and Vic right there beside me. I get to get a visual of it, get to see them run it and tweak the way I run it."
All of that goes in to earning the trust of Manning, something a rookie needs to work especially hard at. So what is Shepard doing? "Just catching the ball, I feel like, is the main thing," Shepard said. "Learning the system is going to take a bit of time, getting on page with him is going to take a little bit of time. But the one thing I can control is every time the ball hits my hands, I try to catch it. I’ve been doing well with that, but we’ll keep working on it."
And finally, as a high draft choice, Shepard — a well as Eli Apple and Darian Thompson — came in to training camp expected and expecting to make an impact. As a receiver who has had to play against the Giants’ first round pick, Shepard was asked about Eli Apple, who was a surprise on draft night. "He’s one of those guys who has a lot of range," Shepard answered, holding his arms out. "You have to try to knock his arms down, because if he gets his hand on you, then it’s going to be difficult to deal with him. He’s got good feet, really good feet. You get a combination of both of those together and you have a good corner."