EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - An unmistakable air surfaced among the Giants in their mandatory camp this week. The Giants are pressing for players to eschew blending in and instead step boldly forward. For go-to guys to emerge. For somebody to snap this franchise out of its four consecutive non-playoff, rank seasons.
New head coach Ben McAdoo is fond of chirping "evolution not revolution.'' But when it came to a talent adjustment, the Giants needed a revolution. With free agency and the draft, that's happened. When it comes to an attitude adjustment, a revolution there is welcome, too.
You get it from the young.
"Naturally, as a football player, you have to make a statement to your peers on your team and against your opponents," rookie cornerback Eli Apple said. "I get the sense of urgency here. It's being stressed. It's my kind of style.''
You get it from the seasoned.
"It's competitive, it's an atmosphere where anyone that wants it and makes it happen can be that go-to guy and you start building that right now,'' sixth-year running back Shane Vereen said. "Even in the practices now, it's about making a play. Just ball.''
Practice faster. Play faster. Understand it's a team game where individuals must levitate.
You get it from the coaches.
"When I think about the great teams I have been around here and with the Baltimore Ravens, a big part of that success was players who were confident and bold,'' Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "You have got to challenge each other first before you can go challenge someone else. But you are not going to be successful in this league unless you have some individual people do some special things. It's early, but I see some of that starting to happen.''
The Giants are mixing the new with the old and letting it roll.
Rookie receiver Sterling Shepard is smack in the middle of this.
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Shepard comes from Oklahoma, a second-round pick, the 40th overall selection. He is fast, quick and explosive.
In just a handful of practices, he is showing his versatility, lining up in the backfield, slot, outside and running jet sweeps. His playmaking is evident. It is his temperament and confidence, though, his willingness to embrace becoming a go-to guy, that is filtering through the rest of the team.
"Very bright, doing a great job, handling the learning curve, a fast study and a really competitive kid,'' Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said of Shepard.
Apple added: "A great dude. A desire not to lose. He can be chippy, scrappy, too. He'll make a play and tell you, 'I got one on you.' He's not one to back down.''
Spagnuolo a few weeks ago looked for Shepard during his first post-draft Giants practice.
"I was like, `What number is Shepard?''' Spagnulo said. "But you didn't need the number to find him. I'll tell you, I was looking at tape the other day and we had a receiver doing some things against us and I told the staff we have to do a better job there against Odell (Beckham, Jr.). And then I looked again and it was not Odell - it was actually Shepard. That's a heck of a compliment right there.''
Shepard is not confused about any of it.
He is 22. He is solid at 5'10, 200 pounds. His father, Derrick, a former Oklahoma and NFL player, died of a heart attack at age 35 in 1999 when Shepard was 6. Sterling Shepard insists he was good at Oklahoma because he wasn't scared to be good. He said he is not scared to be great with the Giants.
"Being at that age when my father died, there is a lot I don't remember about him,'' Shepard said. "But I do remember him taking me to his practices and games. His love for the game keeps me going. I have the same approach. I love this game. It has taken me to a lot of places.
"I haven't heard much from anyone here. I'm just basically beginning to make a name for myself here. They still have to evaluate me. It's my job to make big plays and show them more of what I am capable of. That I am the player they thought I was when they drafted me. It's going well with Eli (Manning). It takes time for a quarterback and receiver to know each other, but we're getting there.''
He thought he would wind up with the Pittsburgh Steelers or with the New England Patriots. Both teams exhibited intense interest. But he's a Giant.
And he just might be a go-to guy.
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Whispers around the franchise reveal that the Giants are so uncertain about Victor Cruz's return from injury that Shepard was drafted with that particularly in mind and that Shepard could replace him, regardless. The Giants will not hinge their season on injured players or on mild and meek ones who only want to blend in.
It's revolution time.
"Well, yes, I've heard some of that, of course,'' Shepard said about he and Cruz. "But honestly, I pay no attention to it. I've worked with Victor and all of the receivers to learn as much as I can and be a part of this team. Any other kind of thoughts like that take you away from yourself and it's stuff that can throw off your game.''
He said he is not the type of person or player who is just going to "sit back and relax.'' He took his first visit to Manhattan recently and was struck by how he could hear and feel the ground rattling from the subways beneath.
The Giants are looking for Shepard to rattle their ground. Help take them places.
"I do have confidence playing this game,'' Shepard said. "If you don't, you get eaten up.''