It was encouraging that New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard wasn’t placed on the reserve/physically Unable to Perform list during Tuesday’s cutdowns. That would’ve meant Shepard missing the first four games of the 2022 season.
Head coach Brian Daboll gave even further promising news.
Daboll told reporters Wednesday morning that Shepard will be activated off the PUP list and that he’s returning to practice for the first time since tearing his Achilles late last season.
“We’ll ramp him up,” Daboll when asked about Shepard’s potential workload. “He’s done a good job in his rehab, it will be good to have him out there.”
The Giants announced that Shepard passed his physical and that he’s now activated off the PUP list.
Shepard suffered a Grade 3 Achilles tears against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15 last season. The 29-year-old receiver will practice after suffering his ACL injury eight months ago.
There was another positive coming out of Giants training camp concerning the injury front.
According to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, rookie safety Dane Belton was seen running on the side with a trainer for the first time since breaking his collarbone earlier in training camp.
Shepard’s Possible Impact
Drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, Shepard is the Giants’ longest-tenured player and most experienced receiver. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension in 2019. Unfortunately for Shepard, he’s eclipsed more than 10 games once since 2018.
Still, Shepard’s remained a consistent receiver when on the field. He’s totaled over 55 receptions in five of his six years in the NFL and shown instinctive qualities at the slot position. His route-running and short-area quickness have made it known throughout the league.
Rookie Wan’Dale Robinson is scheduled to line up in the slot, which could lead Shepard to be used as an outside receiver. That could be alarming to Kenny Golladay, who’s been underwhelming since signing his $72 million free agent deal in 2021.
Shepard’s return can also provide insurance since second-year Kadarius Toney has yet to show he can stay healthy.
Last season, Shepard averaged 7.57 targets per game before injuring his Achilles. He appeared in seven games with six starts.
Injuries have hurt Shepard in the past. He’s had hamstring, turf toe, concussion, ankle, neck and quad injuries between 2017 and 2020.
Belton Ahead of Schedule?
When Belton’s broken collarbone was first reported, there wasn’t an exact timeline for his return. But it did look like Belton avoided the worst when Daboll said at the time that he wouldn’t need surgery.
Now, Belton’s working on the side during Aug. 24 practice.
According to Duggan, he joined other injured players to team drills which included running backs Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell, offensive linemen Jon Feliciano, Josh Ezeudu, Jamil Douglas, defensive lineman Leonard Williams and cornerback Cor’Dale Flott.
It’s unlikely that Belton will be ready for the preseason finale against the New York Jets on August 28.
Belton was serving as the team’s third safety behind starters Xavier McKinney and Julian Love, before getting injured. Yusuf Corker, Andrew Adams, Trenton Thompson and Nathan Meadors make up the rest of the Giants’ safety depth.
The rookie safety Belton will have a chance to return when Giants open the regular season on Sep. 11 against the Tennessee Titans.