Training Camp Tour: Giants rookie WR Sterling Shepard creating buzz in camp
On Day 8 of the Pro Football Focus training camp tour, the PFF analysis team traveled to East Rutherford, N.J., to take in New York Giants camp.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Yesterday’s Giants practice in the Meadowlands was another example of the contrast in styles we’ve seen throughout the camp tour. For much of practice, music was played over loudspeakers, with an automated voice announcing the transitions to new drills. “TV timeouts” were simulated by playing the theme songs to old television shows—a clear favorite among the local media.
[More: Get the full PFF training camp tour schedule here.]
Rookie WR Sterling Shepard, Eli Manning building chemistry
Eli Manning had a strong practice on Wednesday, as he showed the command of the offense expected from a veteran signal-caller entering his third year in the system. In particular, he connected on two perfect deep balls in team periods, and also scored on a red-zone scramble. One of his newest targets, WR Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma), also had a solid day. It was clear that the rookie had already started to build a strong rapport with Manning, as he took a significant amount of snaps with the starting offense (Odell Beckham Jr. sat out his third-straight practice after being cleated in the leg, but did not look limited when running through drills on his own, separate from the team). The buzz on Shepard was high from coaches and media alike, as it was clear he is expected to make a major contribution this season.
Backup QB Ryan Nassib did not look as polished, as he struggled with accuracy and failed to advance the ball efficiently in team periods. This was troubling, considering that he is entering his fourth year in the league and the final year of his contract. Preseason games will be extremely important for him, as his level of play in them will go a long way towards teams deciding whether or not to gamble on him as a potential starter next season by offering him a big contract, or a backup-level deal that could see him getting limited playing opportunities, as he’s of course had throughout his career to date while playing behind Manning.
Giants seeking versatility at cornerback position
With the offseason free-agent signing of CB Janoris Jenkins and addition of first-round draft pick Eli Apple, it should come as no surprise that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is already seeing significant reps in the slot, with the two aforementioned CBs playing the majority of their snaps outside yesterday.
[Editor’s note: Former Bengals CB Leon Hall is expected to sign with the Giants today, per NFL Network’s Rand Getlin.]
When asked about this after practice, CBs coach Tim Walton talked about his desire to have all of the CBs rotate through the slot, in order to prepare them for situational matchups during the regular season, as well as potential injuries that would require shuffling.
Eli Apple was called for defensive holding on one rep, a problem he had dating back to his college play at Ohio State. Walton acknowledged this was something he was focusing on with Apple, and praised the rookie for the general improvement he has shown in this regard. With both Jenkins and Rodgers-Cromartie established veterans in the league, as long as Apple is on the field this year he will be targeted often, thus it is critical for him to limit his aggressiveness with his hands to within 5 yards of the line scrimmage.
Rookies Paul Perkins, Jerrell Adams willing to take on special-teams roles
After practice, we spoke with 2016 fifth-round pick Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA) and sixth-round pick Jerell Adams (TE, South Carolina)—both expressed an understanding that strong performances on special teams would lead to more playing time for them.
Perkins, who was praised by head coach Ben McAdoo during his press conference for his effort level on special teams drills, said, “My first year at UCLA, I tried to make an impact on special teams, and am trying to do the same thing here to get noticed and make the [53-man roster].”
As far as general transition to the NFL, Perkins said, “Right now I’m just trying to get the terminology down. As far as concepts and blocking schemes, the offenses are similar; it’s just the wording I’m trying to master.”
While neither rookie is currently high on the depth charts, both should have chances to contribute not just on special teams, but on offense, as well. Perkins, at this point, is behind veterans Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen, but his quickness and elusiveness (he forced 73 missed tackles at UCLA last season, most in the FBS) likely make him the most athletically-gifted of the quartet. Larry Donnell is the established starter at TE, but Adams, our highest-graded run-blocking TE from the SEC in the 2016 draft class, is likely to see the field as the second or third TE on the roster, competing with Will Tye and Matt LaCosse for playing time.