The New York Giants have made a concentrated effort to surround quarterback Eli Manning with receiving talent as he transitions into the twilight of his storied career. Luckily for the Giants, it looks like they avoided a major injury in their wideout corps.
On Wednesday, second-year receiver Sterling Shepard suffered a left ankle injury in training camp and left on a cart. When he talked to the press Friday, Shepard said that the ankle injury is “nothing serious” and although he didn’t have a timetable, he’s “taking it day by day.”
He also cleared up reports that he was in tears on Wednesday, calling them an “overexaggeration”:
Sterling Shepard talking to reporters, no boot. Says portrayal of injury was exaggerated at first. No tears. "I was screaming." Day to day.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) August 4, 2017
The dynamic playmaker is expected to provide a dangerous third option behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, giving Manning an elusive mid-range target in the middle of the field. But even if the injury shouldn’t threaten his availability for the regular season, he’ll at least be in the early stages of the preseason rehabbing a bum ankle.
Shepard was set to be New York’s primary slot receiver after a promising rookie season. He joined the Giants last fall as the club’s second-round draft pick and made an immediate impact, catching 11 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown in the team’s first two games. While his output slowed from there, he showed off a knack for finding the end zone and creating big plays. His eight touchdowns ranked second on the team, behind only Beckham.
New York bought in on his potential. The franchise cut longtime receiver Victor Cruz this offseason in a money-saving measure that also elevated Shepard’s place on the depth chart. In a pass-first offense like the Giants’ — the team threw the ball nearly 38 times per game last fall — that meant a likely spike in receiving stats for the young WR.
A leg injury could have been devastating for Shepard. His biggest strength is in his speed and ability to elude defenders after the catch. With 4.4 40-yard dash speed and a compact, powerful frame, he’s a nightmare to bring down in the open field.
Fortunately, he should be ready to return soon. Shepard turned heads as a rookie in Giants’ training camp with his confidence and willingness to do whatever the franchise asked of him. Next on his to-do list will be returning to full strength.