The New York Giants completely retooled their receiving corps during the 2019 NFL offseason. Odell Beckham Jr. was controversially traded to the Cleveland Browns, leading the Giants to sign dependable slot receiver Golden Tate.
Tate was a solid acquisition for the Giants. However, Golden Tate’s contract was not the most important contract signed by a wide receiver. The Giants also extended Sterling Shepard during the 2019 NFL offseason.
Sterling Shepard had a career year in 2018 and looks to be the future of the Giants receiving corps. Shepard has had a satisfying first three seasons in the NFL but has yet to total 1,000 yards receiving. 2019 might finally be the year that Sterling Shepard joins the 1,000-yard club.
Sterling Shepard Dominates The Middle Of The Field
Sterling Shepard has improved his receiving yards total each of his three years in the NFL. He improved from 683 yards to 731 yards, then to 872 yards.
2018 was a career year for Shepard. He was targeted a career-high 107 times and caught 66 passes for 872 yards and 4 touchdowns. Now without the presence of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard should see even more targets and increase hit totals to a new career high in 2019.
Shepard makes his money within 10-19 yards of the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, Shepard dominated the intermediate range of the field a season ago, hauling in 19 receptions on throws targeted 10-19 yards past the line of scrimmage. All 19 of those receptions achieved a first down, and 14 of them went for well more than 15 yards. On those receptions, his 19.5 yards per catch ranked fifth among all NFL receivers.
Sterling loves running routes across the middle. He was the third highest graded receiver when running in-routes in 2018. His 125.3 wide receiver rating on such routes ranked third in the NFL and put him ahead of superstars such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Keenan Allen (PFF).
Here is an example of Sterling Shepard dominating over the middle of the field in the intermediate range:
Nice little jab step inside by Sterling Shepard vs. man coverage to get the CB to bite + draws a holding penalty: pic.twitter.com/HzuN8SNrOn
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) June 3, 2019
He Learned A Lot During Odell’s Injuries
Odell Beckham Jr. dealt with multiple injuries over the last two seasons with the Giants. In 2018, OBJ missed 4 games due to a hamstring injury. In 2017, Beckham, unfortunately, suffered a gruesome leg-break, causing him to miss 12 games.
A silver lining, however, would be for Sterling Shepard. That is 16 games that Shep got to see what it was like to be the team’s primary receiver. Here is what Sterling Shepard had to say about his playing time without Odell:
“I’m ready,” he said, according to Giants.com. “With Odell going down the last two seasons (with injuries), that time definitely helped me get a grasp of what being a leader is all about, and being that lead guy in the room. I think it prepared me for this moment. I was pretty vocal anyway. I’m a pretty vocal guy. That will be no problem.”
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