Just when New York Giants fans thought they would see Victor Cruz on the football field for the first time since 2014, the receiver was sidelined again with another injury.
The Giants have needed help offensively since his absence, especially last season in terms of another receiver to take the attention away from Odell Beckham Jr. Second-round 2016 draft pick Sterling Shepard is showing the potential to be the top guy for the Giants.
With the extent and timeline of Cruz’s injury unknown, someone else needs to step up and be ready to go. So far, Shepard has impressed the coaching staff.
In his final year at Oklahoma, Shepard had 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. Marc Ross, the Giants’ vice president of player evaluation, noted one game as Shepard’s “quintessential” performance of his college career.
On Sept. 12, 2015, Oklahoma traveled to Tennessee and played in front of 102,455 people – the Sooners’ largest audience ever. Shepard made two key plays – one touchdown with 40 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime and another to win it for the Sooners in double overtime.
“When you go to Oklahoma,” Ross said to Giants.com, “you always hear about Sterling Shepard, the guy who makes plays.”
In his young career with the Giants, Shepard has already drawn comparisons to fellow receiver Victor Cruz. Scouts see “parallels” in their ball skills and abilities to make big plays after the catch.
“That name came up when our scout group talked about him,” Jerry Reese, Giants’ general manager, said to Giants.com. “That’s one of the names that came up, a young Victor Cruz. Very similar in some ways, body type.
“The one thing about this kid is he’s 5-10 and some change, but his strike zone—what we call a strike zone—is bigger than that. He’s got a 41-inch vertical jump, he’s got big hands. He’s a tenacious slot receiver, run after the catch. Get the ball to him quick and he does some nice things after that catch as well. Yeah, Victor Cruz was one of the names that came up.”
All summer, Shepard has been getting rave reviews. Beckham Jr. proclaims he will be a “phenomenal player” and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan described him as showing “explosiveness and an ability to make tough catches.”
Giants’ fans will have to wait just a little bit longer to see where Shepard lands on the roster, with the first game of the season coming Sept. 11. He has great potential to come in for Cruz or play alongside Cruz and Beckham Jr. Depending on Cruz’s injury, head coach Ben McAdoo has said that he has yet to earn his spot on the roster.