The New York Giants’ receiving corps has the potential to surprise a lot of people, and defenses, in 2019. Are they being underrated?
Who would make up for the production Beckham brought to the field? Who would become the No. 1 guy on the outside?
Those are all fair questions to ask, but the immediate knee-jerk reaction was that the receiving corps was now one of the worst position groups on the team and the offense would never recover.
One recent Bleacher Report article pinned the G-Men position group as the 25th best – or 7th worst – in the league heading into 2019.
As they put it:
"After trading Beckham to the Cleveland Browns, Gettleman loaded up on slot receivers.Tate and Sterling Shepard are at their best working inside the formation. The same can be said of Engram as a detached tight end. Tate, in particular, is fantastic in the role and led all wide receivers last season with 23 forced missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.How the Giants are going to win outside the numbers is unknown. Russell Shepard and some combination of Coleman, Fowler and Slayton must find ways to threaten opposing defenses or the entire field will constrict."
While this assessment isn’t entirely wrong, it is a more-or-less quick overview of the problems on paper without taking into account a few variables.
After the New York Giants brought in veteran slot-receiver Golden Tate, it seemed apparent that Pat Shumur and this offense would be moving to a more balanced scheme. One that will rely heavily on Saquon Barkley while spreading the ball around to Shepard, Tate, and tight end Evan Engram.
The addition of Golden Tate brings a dynamic pass catcher to the offense that can consistently cause mismatches in the middle of the field and force missed tackles. He will assume a greater role in the slot while Sterling Shepard will play in the slot and on the outside, ready to prove why the front office gave him a 4-year, $41 million extension this off-season.
With the hype and attention Beckham naturally brought during his time in New York, it somewhat overshadowed the continued improvement and abilities of Shepard.
In 2018, Shepard set career highs in receptions (66), receiving yards (872) and yards per catch (13.2) while hauling in four touchdowns. In each of his first three seasons, Shepard has improved statistically and developed into a true playmaker and one of the best downfield blocking receivers in the NFL.
Outside of Shepard’s consistent improvements, he’s no stranger to being the No. 1 receiver in this offense, especially recently. Over the last two years Beckham missed a total of 16 games, giving Shepard plenty of experience being the go-to man in the passing game.
It’s not 100% certain yet who the other outside receiver will be, but again that isn’t extremely important in the grand scheme of things considering the new, balanced offensive system.
On paper, these this group leaves a lot to be desired. The trio combined for just 26 receptions, 449 yards, and 3 touchdowns in 2018, with Coleman playing more of a special teams role than receiving role.
If Latimer and Shepard can grow into a bigger role with this offense and provide more options to spread the ball around, then suddenly defenses will have to pick their poison with who to key on, rather than just double-teaming Beckham Jr. and stacking the box vs Barkley.
Finally, a huge potential addition to this group is rookie Darius Slayton, who was taken in the 5th round of this year’s NFL Draft out of Auburn.
Slayton is a player that can blow the lid off the backend of a defense. Averaging 19.1 yards per catch in his last season with Auburn, his 4.39 speed could become a deadly weapon for an offense that might lack a homerun hitter in the passing game.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a receiver on the roster with the same talent as Beckham, and that is perfectly okay. With an improved offensive line, a workhorse in Barkley, and now a more balanced, all-around receiving corps, the offense has a direction that will fit with the abilities of its players.
Yes, there are still some questions that need to be answered. Yes, a lot of the anticipated solutions are relying on projections. However, the New York Giants’ receiving corps isn’t just completely lost and devoid of talent.
Writing off this group because of the departure of one player doesn’t tell the whole story. When it’s all said and done, this position group has a great chance to prove a lot of people wrong.