Sterling Shepard: Joe Judge’s ‘Oklahoma’ tactics paid off for NY Giants

Sterling Shepard #87 of the New York Giants(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Sterling Shepard #87 of the New York Giants(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Joe Judge gambled that a grueling training camp would help build a competitive culture in his first season as NY Giants coach, Sterling Shepard says it worked

Joe Judge took a risk.

The first-year NY Giants head coach last summer made the calculated gamble that a grueling, physical training camp would be the seed that sewn a culture of toughness that bred success for a franchise that hadn’t made the postseason in the three seasons prior to his arrival.

Judge immediately took the names off the back of players’ jerseys.

Players — and coaches — who made mistakes, were punished by being sent running laps around the perimeter of the field.

Several practices even featured a modified Oklahoma drill that sent the sound of shoulder pads cracking and helmets careening off each other echoing off the Quest Diagnostics Training Center walls.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard had seen this before …

"“He’s a tough coach, man,” Shepard said, via “He’s tough coach, but that’s what we needed. For the previous two coaches, we didn’t do any conditioning or anything like that. But I will say last year was my first year of really having conditioning — it kind of felt like Oklahoma all over again.”"

Judge’s grueling summer carried the potential of alienating veteran players and his message falling on def ears, before the season began.

However, by the end of training camp, when Judge grabbed a garden hose and soaked a stretch of field to run what can only be described as a slip-and-slide fumble-recovery drill, it was evident that the physicality of camp had brought coach and team closer together.

Even more importantly, the NY Giants were among the more competitive teams in the NFL as last season ended, winning five of their final eight games, and dropping three games over the course of the season by three points or less.

Judge’s gamble paid off, and just might lift the franchise, that spent big in free agency to add big-time talent to both sides of the ball this offseason, to new heights.

"“You know what? It was honestly good for us,” Shepard said. “We would get into the fourth quarter and guys would be wheezing and we were like, nothing happened. So he’s getting us into shape, but it’s all for good.”"

Matt Lombardo is FanSided’s National NFL Insider, and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday. Email Matt:, Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL