Sterling Shepard is a go for Sunday’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Rams (5-2) when the Giants (1-6) need him more than ever.
Ben McAdoo’s conservative, run-heavy offensive game plan that helped to beat host Denver in Week 6 was hard to watch in a subsequent 24-7 home loss to Seattle before the bye.
And while the switch to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan as play-caller in Week 6 has strengthened a commitment to the run, the offense’s numbers have been putrid — especially in the passing game —since Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris were lost for the season in Week 5 and Shepard went down in that same loss to the Chargers with a sprained left ankle.
Eli Manning is 30-of-58 (51.7 %) for 262 yards in the last two games, and while he has thrown no interceptions to his two touchdowns, Manning’s new crop of less accomplished receivers has caught a grand total of seven passes for 67 yards in those games.
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The Giants need to open it up and challenge defenses on offense. Shepard will help them do that.
“The running game worked so well against Denver that the next week you couldn’t help but try to test out the running game and see it again,” an excited Shepard said Thursday after his first official full practice since his injury. “But there’s no question that going forward we’re gonna have to throw the ball a little bit, so it’s kind of just perfect timing. I’m coming back, and we’ll see if we can get things balanced and get the ball moving.”
Sullivan was excited about Shepard’s return, letting fly before it was officially announced that Shepard was “back into the mix” and stressing that the second-year receiver is “someone that I think we’re going to rely upon.”
Shepard has 22 catches for 263 yards and a touchdown in less than five full games. He scored on a blazing 77-yard TD on a pinpoint timing throw by Manning in the thrilling fourth-quarter of an eventual heartbreaking Week 3 loss in Philadelphia.
A RELIEF AT CORNER
Slot corner Donte Deayon injured his ankle during practice, and though he said he was OK after, countless concerned teammates approached Deayon’s locker to ask him how he was doing as if there had been more of a scare than just the “tweak” Deayon made it seem to be.
It’s a huge relief if Deayon is OK, though, because if he’s injured that would leave the Giants with only three healthy and active corners given Janoris Jenkins’ indefinite suspension: Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ross Cockrell. Deayon has played well in his first two career games after being signed to the active roster ahead of the Giants’ lone win in Week 6 in Denver.
Giants tight end Rhett Ellison had the best excuse of all to miss Wednesday’s practice: his wife, Raina, was giving birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Kaya Rose Ellison. Ellison returned to practice Wednesday and was over the moon even though he hadn’t slept much.
“I always wondered why the veterans got to the hotel super early on Saturdays,” Ellison said, joking that the team hotel before games will now be his only opportunity to catch some Z’s.
Offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), middle linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), center Weston Richburg (concussion) and defensive ends Olivier Vernon (ankle) and Kerry Wynn (knee) again missed practice. Deayon (ankle) and linebackers Jonathan Casillas (neck) and Calvin Munson (quad) were limited. Paul Perkins (ribs) remained full a second straight day, and upgraded to full were safety Nat Berhe (calf), Ellison, Shepard and defensive tackle Robert Thomas (calf).
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