Sterling Shepard tore his ACL last night in a non-contact move on the final Giants’ offensive play. The Giants lost a tough game to the Cowboys. But losing your leading wide receiver on the last play makes it doubly tough, especially when the wide receiver group is already thin with other injuries. “Shep” worked so hard to return to the lineup during the offseason after tearing his Achilles last December.
Shepard joins fellow wide receiver, Collin Johnson (torn Achilles) as would be key targets for QB Daniel Jones that are lost for the season. He also joins rookie WR Wan’Dale Robinson and second-year WR Kadarius Toney on the injury list. Robinson (knee) and Toney (hamstring) are slowly working their way back to the lineup with no definite timetable for return.
This is a huge blow for the Giants. Shepard is the longest-tenured Giant. His experience and enthusiasm for the game and in the locker room will be sorely missed. More importantly, he’s been one of the most reliable receivers for Daniel Jones. He seemed to fit Brian Daboll’s and Mike Kafka’s offense perfectly. In addition, Shep was a very willing and able blocker for the Giants’ ground game. He was always willing to mix it up with the linebackers in the hopes of springing RB Saquon Barkley on long runs.
The Giants’ salary cap situation (thanks to the WR Kenny Golladay contract orchestrated by former GM Dave Gettleman) leaves them with limited options in filling Shepard’s roster spot. Coach Daboll said the rest of the wide receiver group will need to step up their game. That’s especially true of two veteran WRs, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton. Both have seen limited playing time this season and have basically shown limited results. Golladay had a critical drop last night and another nice catch negated by a very questionable interference call on Shepard. Slayton has been lost in the depth chart this season after two straight seasons leading the Giants in receiving yards. This is mostly due to critical drops in games.
The Giants will continue to rely on Richie James and David Sills V. In addition, Practice Squad players Marcus Johnson and Kalil Pimpleton may get their chance to play.
The Giants need to avoid becoming a one-dimensional team where all defenses care about is stopping the run. At one time, Slayton was considered a deep threat, which can help stretch a defense. It seems Golladay cannot gain the separation from coverage like he used to. Of course, in order to get receivers downfield, the offensive line needs to give Daniel Jones better protection than they did last night.
Get better Shep. The wide receiver room needs you.