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With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Wide Receivers
2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: It was widely expected that the wide receiving position on the New York Giants in 2017 was going to be a team strength. The opposite occurred. By early October, Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris had all been placed on Injured Reserve with season-ending injuries. Even replacements such as Darius Powe and Tavarres King ended up on IR. By the end of the year, the likes of Marquis Bundy, Travis Rudolph, and Hunter Sharp were starting. The leading receiver ending up being Sterling Shepard (59 catches for 731 yards and two touchdowns), who also suffered through an injury-plagued 2017 with ankle, migraine, and neck issues that caused him to miss five games. Roger Lewis was next with just 36 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns. And despite missing almost three months of the season, Beckham was sadly third with 25 catches for 302 yards and three touchdowns. No other receiver had more than 18 catches. Even before he was hurt, the highly-touted Brandon Marshall looked like a shadow of his former self. In the end, this was arguably the least productive wide receiving corps in the NFL with just 11 touchdown receptions.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants cut Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris in the offseason. The Giants also let Tavarres King walk in free agency. Newcomers include free agents Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, and Alonzo Russell. The team also signed rookie free agent Jawill Davis after the 2018 NFL Draft.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: As long as he is with the team, Odell Beckham will always be the center of attention. Coming off a serious ankle injury and entering the final year of his rookie contract, expect daily stories on his health and contractual status. When will he practice? Will he be limited? Will he holdout? Will he play in the preseason? Is he still the same explosive player? Then of course will be the somewhat legitimate but often shit-stirring, click-bait media stories about his character. What will be interesting to see is the interpersonal dynamic between Beckham and the fan bases new darling, Saquon Barkley. The good news is that Beckham appears to very much get along with the rookie. With Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard on the roster, Beckham will most likely have to accept fewer touches if he truly wants to win more games.
More diehard fans know that the bigger issue may be finding the complementary pieces to Beckham. Whether accurate or not, the current perception is that Sterling Shepard isn’t best suited for an outside position, but better suited for the slot. This is a big year for him. Shepard saw his touchdowns drop from eight in his rookie year to two in 2017. Ironically, those two long-distance touchdowns against the Eagles in 2017 were the first evidence that Shepard can make plays deeper down the field. Can he build upon that or is strictly a 10-12 yards-per-catch underneath guy? Being a really good slot receiver is no crime, but if Sterling is limited, then finding another outside target becomes imperative. The leading candidates are ex-Broncos Cody Latimer and Hunter Sharp, ex-Buccaneer and Panther Russell Shepard, and Roger Lewis. None of these players have to put up big numbers, but just present enough of a threat to draw some attention.
ON THE BUBBLE: Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard are the only two sure bets to make the roster. Cody Latimer is likely to make it simply because of his special teams ability as a gunner. Russell Shepard also has made plays as a gunner with the Buccaneers and that could help him. The Giants also are still need of returners which could be a factor in retaining Hunter Sharp and Kalif Raymond. The Giants did bring back Travis Rudolph, Marquis Bundy, and Amba Etta-Tawo from last year, but all three have to be considered long-shots at this point. Same with rookie speedster Jawill Davis and bigger target Alonzo Russell. Then there is the enigmatic Roger Lewis, who alternates between flashes of ability and frustrating lapses.
FROM THE COACH: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Odell Beckham: “I think we’re just still getting to know each other. But I’ve said it before, this guy loves to play football, and he gets it as well. So, when I see him in the meetings, when I see him on the field, regardless of what he’s doing, when I see him on the field he’s really engaged and you can see, just by him running routes versus air and some of the drill work we’re doing, that he can really help us.”
Shurmur on if there is a #3 receiver on the roster: “I don’t know. We’ll just have to find out as we go, but we’ve added some guys to the mix. You guys tell me who’s one, two, or three, or four or five and six or whatever. But Cody Latimer is here. We’ve got some young guys, Travis Rudolph has done a good job. So I think there are guys on our roster that we’re going to develop a trust in and put them out there and we expect them to produce.”
PREDICTIONS: Provided health and finances don’t become issues, the Giants appear to have an outstanding outside receiver and a quality slot receiver. But another outside starter and depth are very much concerns. The loss of Beckham or Sterling Shepard to injury would be significant. The other 10 receivers on the roster have flashed at times in the OTAs and mini-camps, but it’s a pretty hodgepodge group. The three ex-Broncos – Cody Latimer, Hunter Sharp, and Kalif Raymond – have the advantage that the team’s new position coach, Tyke Tolbert, coached them in Denver. My best guess at this time is that Latimer becomes the #3, but if he falters, it would not surprise me for the Giants to keep a close eye on the waiver wire. Don’t discount Roger Lewis if he can become a more consistent and reliable player. Also note that Hunter Sharp’s name has been consistently and positively mentioned throughout the spring.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Hunter Sharp, and Roger Lewis. Giants may carry six, but you could throw a dart at the roster trying to figure out who that may be. Again, don’t be shocked to see a waiver-wire pick-up here. This position is not as strong as some fans think it is.