Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will be opening their doors for a familiar face later on this week when they welcome Joe Judge and the New York Giants for two days of joint training camp practices at Gillette Stadium. Judge, who is set to embark on his second season at the helm of the G-Men, spent eight years coaching under Belichick as an assistant in Foxborough — capturing three Super Bowl titles along the way.
The mini-reunion will serve as the dress rehearsal before the dress rehearsal, as the two teams will face-off in East Rutherford for their respective preseason finales on Sunday. It will also pose as a great venue for both teams to scope soon-to-be-available players, whether via free agency or trade. There have already been rumors connecting the Giants to Pats pass-rusher Chase Winovich, while New York’s dual-threat kicker/punter Ryan Santoso appears to be very much available. Could there be another notable name to keep an eye on?
Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon believes that should the suddenly-wide receiver heavy Giants opt to move off of Sterling Shepard, trading the slot receiver to the Patriots would make a “ton of sense for both sides.”
“With Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, John Ross III and Kadarius Toney at wide receiver, the New York Giants should view Shepard as a luxury,” wrote Gagnon. “But the five-time 500-yard slot-oriented wideout does have plenty of value in his prime, and he could be particularly attractive to a New England team looking to replace the retired Julian Edelman.”
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Giants Would Bolster Their Offensive Line in Return
In Gagnon’s proposal, the Giants would receive some much-needed help along the offensive line, yielding the services of Ted Karras — or David Andrews if the Patriots felt so inclined.
“It just so happens the Patriots might be able to help the Giants bolster a weak interior offensive line. They have both Karras and David Andrews on the roster, and either would become an immediate starter at center or guard for the G-Men,” claimed Gagnon.
Of course, New York’s question marks up front are far from a secret. The unit is extremely young, with their projected starting five checking in at an average of just 24 years old. Add on top of that injury concerns on the interior to the likes of Shane Lemieux and Jonotthan Harrison, and the insertion of a player such as Karras who has started 31 games since 2019 would certainly be a welcomed addition.
Then again, none of that likely truly matters, because…
Giants Aren’t Trading Shepard
That is at least at this moment. And that’s no knock on Shepard’s potential fit in New England. His game has always screamed “Patriots slot receiver,” dating back to his Oklahoma days. However, if Belichick truly wants to get his hands on the 28-year-old, it’ll likely have to be after this season, when the Giants have a potential out from under his contract (via Spotrac).
Not to mention, his performance this summer doesn’t exactly point to a player the organization would want to move on from, as he’s been lights out throughout training camp.
It’s easy to paint Shepard as the odd-man-out in Big Blue’s reworked receiver corps, yet the fact of the matter is he could be in line for one of his most productive seasons to date. The team’s leader in receptions in back-to-back years, Shepard is clearly Daniel Jones’ favorite returning target and a safety blanket for the third-year quarterback.
While Kenny Golladay is expected to take the torch as the team’s new No. 1 receiver, a hamstring injury continues to sideline the big-ticket free agent, hindering his connection and development with Jones. As for first-round pick Kadarius Toney, his tantalizing skillset is only outdone by the complete mystery he is as a player, as a wild offseason has stripped the Giants from truly seeing what they have in the Florida product.
If Golladay proves healthy and capable of shouldering the majority of the targets in the passing game and Toney flashes as a rookie, it’s realistic that a nearly 30-year-old Shepard could be shown the door prior to the 2022 campaign. However, as things currently sit, the six-year pro will not only be a Giant in 2021 but a focal point of their offense.
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