Sterling Shepard spent the week in concussion protocol, but the fourth-year wide receiver was out on the field Friday as the Giants turned the page from the past weekend’s 35-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants hoped to have Shepard back by the time Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at MetLife Stadium against the Buffalo Bills arrived, but they instead enter the home opener without one of their top offensive weapons.
After Friday’s practice, Shurmur said that Shepard was not entirely held out of action, but there were further steps needed to gain clearance before Sunday’s game.
“Yeah, he was out here,” Shurmur said of Shepard. “But again, there are steps that you have to take. They are very defined in terms of coming back. We want to make sure we go through the proper protocol.”
Already without Golden Tate as he serves the second of his four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, the Giants lose Shepard and Darius Slayton (hamstring) while Cody Latimer (calf) remains questionable.
Latimer was able to run routes at Friday’s practice to see how his calf felt. He caught three passes on eight targets for 74 yards (24.7 average) for the Giants against the Cowboys.
“I think I’m good, I think I’ll be good to go, but we’ll see before the game,” said Latimer, whose injury occured in Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll see how I run around, move around and then make a decision then.”
If the Giants are down Shepard, Slayton and Latimer, where might Shurmur turn as quarterback Eli Manning looks to get the offense off the ground and into the end zone after 470 total yards went for just 17 points in week one?
The answer could come elsewhere in the offense.
Running back Saquon Barkley took 11 carries for 120 yards (10.9 average) and caught four passes for 19 yards (4.8 average) against the Cowboys and expects to draw more touches with the Giants in need of play-making sparks.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Barkley said. “If we play better than we did last game, and we execute what we need to execute, I don’t think the conversation will be about 15 touches. I think we find a way to win that game. But at the end of the day, Dallas made more plays than us. We just have to find a way to do that better next game.”
More looks out of 12 personnel — one running back and two tight ends or two running backs and one tight end — also serve as options after the Giants paired Rhett Ellison with key starter Evan Engram at tight end.
“We’ll let what we’re going to do reveal itself,” Shurmur said.
At wide receiver, whether or not Latimer ultimately plays, three others — Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard and TJ Jones — slide up the depth chart as a result of Sterling Shepard’s absence.
“This is a part of the game — it’s next man up,” said Fowler, who caught five all passes thrown his way for 40 yards (8.0 average) against the Cowboys. “That’s just how the NFL is. It’s how it’s been since I’ve been in the league, so it’s just the opportunity for me to go out and make plays for this team.”