When healthy, Sterling Shepard has proven to be a capable wideout. However, injuries are starting to become a major problem for the veteran.
It sure seems like the NY Giants deal with injuries a lot more than most NFL teams, although I’m sure fans of almost every team would say that, especially in 2020 when players are dropping like flies at a record pace.
After superstar Saquon Barkley was put on injured reserve following Sunday’s game that saw him tear his ACL, Sterling Shepard is now joining him on that list as the speedy wideout is dealing with turf toe.
It’s just the latest injury in a series of many for the fifth-year player, as Shepard headed into this season having already missed 11 games during his career.
Before this latest spat with turf toe, Shepard’s head was what NY Giants fans were worrying about as he has dealt with multiple concussions and migraines since being drafted by Big Blue in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
According to Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News, Shepard has officially been placed on injured reserve.
The NFL instituted a one-year rule this year due to COVID-19 that allows teams to bring back players off the injured reserve list after just three weeks instead of the usual eight-week time frame as the league (rightly) anticipated that there would be more injuries than usual due to a condensed offseason.
While Shepard is expected to return at some point next month, him not being able to stay on the field has become a pattern that has to concern the NY Giants organization long-term.
It isn’t about toughness, as the former Oklahoma star has proven to be as tough as they come by playing through nagging injuries in training camp and coming back early from serious head injuries when no one would have blamed him for sitting out much longer.
Dave Gettleman signed the wideout to a four-year/$41M contract extension last offseason in a move that doesn’t look so great at the moment.
While Shepard has been productive when he’s been on the field, the 27-year-old has yet to top 70 catches, 900 yards, or 8 TD’s in any season; he’s also only topped 4TD’s once in his career and that was all the way back during his standout rookie 2016 campaign.
Shepard doesn’t figure to be a cap casualty this offseason as he would only be entering the second year of that contract extension that calls for $21M in guarantees. Releasing the wide receiver would save the team just $3M against a $6M dead cap charge.
Still, head coach Joe Judge and Gettleman are going to have to come together and decide if Shepard is in the team’s long-term plans, especially if this trend continues.
Possible in-house NY Giants replacements
After the NY Giants went out and inked former All-Pro running back Devonta Freeman to a $3M contract earlier today to replace Saquon Barkley, there isn’t much cap space left to go around as Big Blue figures to only have about $5M left to work with in 2020 and the team surely wants to roll most of that over into 2021 at this point.
Luckily, the Big Blue practice squad is littered with talented undrafted free agents that could step up and do nicely in Shepard’s absence.
For my money, this NY Giants offense needs a size injection and I would love to see the 6’4” Binjimen Victor out of Ohio State get the first crack at replacing Shepard. While Darius Slayton and Golden Tate are fine receivers, neither is taller than 6’1” and it would be nice for Daniel Jones to have a big target to throw to, especially in the red zone.
Fellow Ohio State Buckeye Austin Mack will be in the discussion as well and he would also be a size upgrade at 6’2”.
The NY Giants also feature LSU UDFA Derrick Dillon, although he stands at just 5’11 and his skillset is pretty repetitive with Golden Tate’s.
Big Blue also has veteran wideout Johnny Holton on its practice squad, and even though he would be a size upgrade at 6’3” he’s proven to be more of a special teams player as he’s racked up just 14 receptions in his four-year NFL career.
Lastly, the recently-released Corey Coleman could be a cheap free-agent option to bring back aboard after he was puzzlingly let go at the end of training camp in favor of Damion Ratley who has done next to nothing during the first two games of his NY Giants career,