Sterling Shepard

Giants Considering Starting Role For WR Jalin Hyatt; Sterling Shepard On Roster Bubble?

When the Giants look to repeat their success from last season in 2023, all eyes will understandably be on quarterback Daniel Jones given his sizeable extension signed in March. The team’s new-look receiving corps will be a key determining factor in their offensive improvement, though, meaning training camp developments amongst their pass-catchers are worth watching closely.

New York entered the offseason in need of an established playmaker in the passing game, and they acquired one in the form of Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. The former Raven and Raider has impressed since being traded to New York, and he is expected to operate as the focal point of the Giants’ passing game moving forward. At the wide receiver spot, though, plenty is yet to be determined.

New York declined to make a sizeable splash on the open market, with their biggest moves being the addition of Parris Campbell and re-signing of Darius Slayton. During the draft, they added one of the class’ more intriguing prospects, third-rounder Jalin Hyatt. The latter was one of several WR targets for the Giants in April, and the team was prepared to use its second-round selection on the speedster.

Hyatt found himself on the third-string offense for much of the spring, but things have changed since then. The Tennessee alum is now seeing reps with the starters, as noted by Dan Duggan of The Athletic (subscription required). Hyatt, the 2022 Biletnikoff winner as college football’s top receiver, recorded 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns in the Volunteers’ high-octane offense, but questions about his ability to transition from that scheme to the NFL had tempered his 2023 expectations. Now, though, signficant playing time appears to be in the cards.

The same cannot be said of the Giants’ longest-tenured player. Sterling Shepard finds himself on the roster bubble, Duggan notes. The 30-year-old suffered an ACL tear in 2022, which limited him to just three games played and added further to his history of signficant injuries. He was brought back on a low-cost deal, but the Giants would incur no financial penalty if they elected to include him among the final roster cuts.

Shepard is currently behind Cole Beasley on the depth chart, Duggan adds, which is certainly concerning with respect to the former’s job security. Beasley avoided a second retirement by heading to New York and reuniting with Brian Daboll in the process. The current Giants head coach served as the Bills’ offensive coordinator during Beasley’s most productive seasons, but expectations are still low given the latter’s age (34) and lack of playing time last season.

Preseason will go a long way in settling the WR pecking order in New York. The fact that Hyatt has come a long way toward a starting role, and that Shepard has work to do simply to make the roster, however, are notable storylines to follow as the rest of the summer plays out.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/30/23

Here are the minor moves around the league to wrap up the weekend:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Igwebuike, the former safety-turned-running back, likely won’t have a role in a crowded running backs room that currently includes rookie top-ten pick Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson. He does have some experience on kick return, where he could compete with Patterson and Avery Williams for a role.

The Rams added some quality, experienced depth today in Freeman. While he’s failed to reach the success he found as a primary backup in his first two seasons, Freeman should have plenty of tread on the tires at only 27 years old with minimal usage over the past three years. Behind starter Cam Akers, Los Angeles only has second-year Kyren Williams and rookie sixth-rounder Zach Evans, so bringing in an experienced backup like Freeman should be beneficial.

The Giants add two depth pieces back to their beat-up receiving corps. Getting them back into the fold will be beneficial for training camp. Meanwhile, across the way, new Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers will get to work with his old teammate, Cobb, once again.

The retirement of Pottebaum comes as a bit of a shock so early into camp. The Iowa-product was a part of Pittsburgh’s small, seven-man undrafted free agent class this year. Not only that, but heading into camp, Pottebaum was also the only fullback listed on the roster. He was in attendance for the Steelers’ first week of training camp, as well, but now appears to be on his way out. This doesn’t leave Pittsburgh completely high and dry as the team was already exploring the option of utilizing tight end Connor Heyward in a role more similar to what he played in college. Heyward could earn a much larger role in his sophomore season by taking on a few more snaps at fullback.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/25/23

With a number of teams preparing for the start of training camp, a long list of players were placed on inactive lists today. We’ve compiled all of those and today’s other minor moves below:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Free Agents

Isaiah Wilson hasn’t had an NFL gig since he was released by the Giants in January of 2022. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the free agent lineman was slapped with a three-game suspension, but it’s uncertain what led to the temporary ban. Wilson was a first-round pick by the Titans in 2020 but got into only one game with Tennessee before getting shipped off to Miami. He was waived by Miami after showing up late to his team physical, and his practice squad stint with New York only lasted one season.

Max Garcia is an experienced addition to the Saints OL room, with the veteran having most recently started seven of his 12 appearances with the Cardinals in 2022. The 31-year-old has 59 games of starting experience, although Pro Football Focus was iffy on his production last year (63rd among 77 qualifying offensive guards).

Following a three-year stint in Cleveland, Terrance Mitchell has spent the past two seasons bouncing around the NFL. He got into 14 games (13 starts) for the Texans in 2021, finishing with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He spent the 2022 season with the Titans, finishing with 39 tackles in 11 games (five starts). 49ers fifth-round pick Darrell Luter Jr. is set to miss some time with a knee injury, providing Mitchell with an opportunity during training camp.

Giants WR Sterling Shepard Aiming For Week 1 Return

The Giants’ 2023 offense will feature a number of new pass-catchers, including several different faces in the wide receiving corps. That unit will still feature Sterling Shepard, though, perhaps as early as Week 1 of the regular season.

The veteran signed a one-year deal to remain in New York this offseason, a commitment on the team’s part to keep their longest-tenured player in the fold. Shepard’s 2022 campaign was limited to just three games due a torn ACL. He is currently rehabbing the injury, the latest in a long line in that regard which has hurt the team’s passing game and his financial value. His remarks on his recovery paint an encouraging picture, though.

“I’m right on schedule where I wanted to be, a little bit ahead,” the 30-year-old said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post“So that’s always good. I’m just trying to take it day by day and just focus on getting back to 100 percent.”

At full health, the former second-rounder has been a key member of New York’s passing game. Shepard received at least 83 targets in each of his first five seasons, though that figure dropped dramatically in 2021 and ’22 given his major injuries (including an Achilles tear in the former campaign). The team’s work to boost its aerial attack this offseason should cut further into Shepard’s workload.

The Giants traded for Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, a move which will give newly-extended quarterback Daniel Jones a proven producer in the middle of the field. On the perimeter, free agent signings Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder represent one-year investments at the WR spot. They, along with third-round rookie Jalin Hyatt, will give Shepard competition for playing time upon his return. The timing of that remains to be seen, but if the latter remains on his current track it could come as early as the season opener.

“My goal is to be ready for the season, so whatever that takes is what I’m going to try to do, but I’m also not going to rush it,” Shepard said. “You get to that time and I’m not feeling right, then that’s just what it’s going to be.”

Giants To Re-Sign WR Sterling Shepard

4:07pm: A tweet from Shepard himself suggests that a deal is now in place, albeit one which marks a step down from his previous compensation. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports, to little surprise, that the Giants have signed the receiver to a one-year pact worth the veteran’s minimum (Twitter link).

2:17pm: The Giants have already been busy this offseason by retaining two pillars of their offense. Another veteran member of the unit will likely be in place for 2023, as well. New York is expected to re-sign wideout Sterling Shepard, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link).

The 30-year-old entered the 2022 season as the Giants’ lonest-tenured player, making him a veteran presence relied upon both on and off the field. His career has been marred by a number of injuries, however, including an ACL tear which ended his season in Week 3 this year. That was a disappointing end to his contact year, and marked a threat to his playing future.

Shepard has also dealt with an Achilles tear previously in his career, and has been able to put together a fully healthy campaign just twice in his seven seasons in the Big Apple. When on the field, he has been a consistent producer, however, and one who has been leaned on by multiple Giants QBs. Shepard has drawn at least 83 targets in a season five times.

The former second-rounder agreed to a restructured contract last offseason which made 2022 the final season of his deal. That move included a pay cut, something which, coupled with his ACL tear, will no doubt keep this new contract short on term and compensation. It will nevertheless allow him to continue his Giants career while giving the team a familiar face in the receiving corps.

New York’s pass-catchers were not a celebrated group at full strength to begin the season, and several of them suffered major injuries as the season went on. Shepard will best be suited to fill a complimentary role alongside the recently re-signed Isaiah Hodgins as the Giants aim to become more efficient through the air in 2023. Their offense will, of course, feature both quarterback Daniel Jones after he signed a long-term deal and running back Saquon Barkley, who will play this coming season on the franchise tag in the absence of a new pact of his own.

Shepard has a well-known relationship with free agent wideout Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants have been linked to a reunion with the latter this offseason, and were one of several teams in attendance for his workout conducted on Friday. Signing Beckham and Shepard would in no way preclude the team from targeting a wideout with their top pick in the upcoming draft, but it would give their offense more veterans as they transition into an era of Jones and Barkley being more expensive than in the beginning of their careers.

Giants Re-Sign WR Isaiah Hodgins

The Giants have been busy re-signing some of their exclusive rights free agents this week. The biggest of those names re-signed with the team Thursday.

Isaiah Hodgins, who went from waiver claim to the team’s most reliable stretch-run wide receiver, re-signed for the 2023 season. The Giants still have two more years of control with Hodgins, who is not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2025. This is likely a one-year agreement, tabling this matter to restricted free agency in 2024.

Evolving from the “Minor NFL Transactions” space, Hodgins made a quick assimilation from Bills reserve to Daniel Jones‘ go-to guy. A former Brian Daboll charge in Buffalo, Hodgins caught four passes in the Bills’ Week 5 blowout of the Steelers and played for the team against the Chiefs the following week. Those cameos did not provide much indication of where his season would go.

Hodgins, 24, finished with 37 receptions for 392 yards and four touchdowns — almost all of those numbers coming as a Giant — and filled a void for a team that had seen its once-intriguing receiver situation turn into a borderline emergency. Season-ending injuries to Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson, a trade of Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay becoming one of the worst free agent signings in recent NFL history left Darius Slayton as the last man standing. Hodgins, whom the Bills waived on November 1, did well to fill in the gaps and should be a notable cog for the 2023 Giants as well.

A second-generation NFLer, Hodgins caught eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ last-second loss to the Vikings in Week 17. Two weeks later, the 6-foot-4 pass catcher totaled eight receptions for 105 yards and a score to help the Giants upset the Vikes in the franchise’s first playoff win in 11 years.

Shepard’s restructured contract voided this week, and Slayton is on track for unrestricted free agency. Golladay will soon be released. The Giants are expected to pursue free agent wide receivers next month, but Hodgins will almost definitely factor into the team’s equation next season.

Latest On Odell Beckham Jr.

6:10pm: Adding further detail to Beckham’s visitation schedule, Anderson reports that the three-time Pro Bowler will meet with the Giants before heading to Dallas (Twitter link). In between, he is expected to meet with the Bills. Anderson adds that Beckham and his camp remain in conversation with the both the Chiefs and Ravens as he continues to draw significant interest from around the league.

3:30pm: The Cowboys and Giants are about to face off against each other on the field, but they are also in competition with respect to free agent Odell Beckham JrThe high-profile wideout is thought to be down to the NFC East rivals with respect to his decision on where to sign.

That decision is expected to come soon, but Beckham’s health is obviously a sticking point in negotiations. He tore his ACL during last season’s Super Bowl, leading to widespread expectation that a lengthy absence to begin 2022 would ensue. That could extend beyond the immediate future, however; FOX Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano reports that there is “considerable doubt” around the NFL that Beckham will be able to suit up at any point this season.

That could explain the slow-moving process by which the 30-year-old is weighing his options. CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets that the Cowboys are expecting a visit from Beckham in early December, with a different team hosting him sometime before then. That represents at least a slight shift in the expected timeline for a decision to be made; Beckham had previously been reportedly seeking to find his next home by the end of this month.

Dallas has consistently been the most vocal team while pitching Beckham to choose them over a shortlist of other suitors (which includes the Giants but also, at least recently, the Bills, Chiefs and 49ers). Continuing along those lines, quarterback Dak Prescott has been personally involved in recruiting Beckham, as noted (on Twitter) by Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The latter has made it known on multiple occasions that mutual interest exists between he and the Cowboys.

Members of the Giants are also taking part in the bidding war for Beckham’s services, however. Injured wideout Sterling Shepard has been in conversation with him on an everyday basis, as detailed by Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

“I talk to him every day, but we don’t talk about [his decision] too much,” Shepard said. “Obviously he knows that we want him here. He would love to be here. But everything has to play out for that to happen… And I understand that.”

The Giants’ WR room was far from highly-touted to begin the year, and the latest major injury suffered this past week (rookie Wan’Dale Robinson‘s torn ACL) leaves the unit severely shorthanded. Beckham could fill a significant void by reuniting with the Giants, though the same remains true of the Cowboys in that regard. Both teams will have a slightly clearer picture of their postseason outlook after today’s game, and could have a prized acquisition not long after.

WR Notes: Lions, Burks, Broncos, Giants

The Lions are leading the NFL in scoring, having hit 35 points in three of their four games. They did so Sunday without Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift and have been playing without their No. 12 overall draft choice all season. As expected, Jameson Williams will not return to practice when first eligible. Dan Campbell confirmed the first-round pick is improving but added “several weeks” remain before practices enter the equation, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Detroit has a Week 6 bye. Campbell said it will be “a good time after” that point before the team considers Williams practicing.

An Ohio State recruit who broke through after transferring to Alabama in 2021, Williams is rehabbing the ACL tear he sustained in the national championship game. The previously mentioned midseason return, which would give Williams nearly 10 months of rehab, may not quite cover it. But the Lions are understandably playing the long game here. They are not exactly primed to contend in 2022 and could have Williams under team control through 2026, via the fifth-year option. Once Williams’ practice window is opened, the Lions have 21 days to activate him from their reserve/NFI list.

Here is the latest from the receiver scene:

  • Turf toe will pause Treylon Burks‘ rookie season. While Ian Rapoport of notes the Titans receiver is not set to undergo surgery, he will miss time (Twitter link). This absence is expected to extend beyond a couple of weeks, per Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed. That would open the door to an IR stint. Turf toe can be a nagging issue, and this ailment has cropped up after Burks cleared some offseason hurdles to put together a somewhat promising start. Burks bounced on and off the field during the offseason for the Titans, with an asthma issue contributing to his missing minicamp. Despite the first-round pick not starting Tennessee’s opener, he caught seven passes for 102 yards over his team’s first two games. The Arkansas alum will look to build on that upon return.
  • Staying with the 2022 receiver draft class, the Commanders are set to be without their first-round pick for a stretch. A hamstring injury will likely sideline Jahan Dotson for at least two games, Ron Rivera said. Dotson has proven to be a solid contributor early, catching three touchdown passes in four weeks.
  • The Broncos, who have now lost two skill-position starters to season-ending ACL tears, are planning to elevate K.J. Hamler‘s role. Nathaniel Hackett said the 2020 second-round pick is a player the team must involve more in its game plans, via the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel (on Twitter). Although Hamler caught a well-placed 55-yard pass in Week 4 to set up a Denver touchdown, he played four snaps in Las Vegas. Considering the Broncos are without Tim Patrick for the season, Hamler not seeing much action surprises. But the Penn State-developed speedster suffered an ACL tear and a hip injury — one the Broncos feared was a Bo Jackson-type malady — in Week 3 last season. With the team holding him out in Week 2 because of his previous injury, Hamler is still attempting to surmount that setback. During this process, the Broncos have used Kendall Hinton as their No. 3 wideout.
  • Sterling Shepard confirmed (via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, on Twitter) he did not suffer any damage beyond his ACL tear, though the seventh-year Giants wideout estimated his tear actually occurred two plays before he went down. Shepard, who will undergo surgery this month, agreed to a pay cut to stay this offseason — which followed a 2021 Achilles tear. This latest injury could put the former second-round pick’s career in jeopardy.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/28/22

Here today’s minor moves from around the league:

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

Giants WR Sterling Shepard Suffers Torn ACL

On their final offensive play of last night’s game, one of the Giants’ most important players saw his final action of the 2022 campaign. Wideout Sterling Shepard suffered a non-contact knee injury which was immediately expected to be season-ending (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jordan Raaanan). It has since been confirmed by head coach Brian Daboll that he tore his left ACL. 

Shepard fell to the ground despite not being touched by a defender; he was ultimately carted off the field. The diagnosis marks the second consecutive major injury he now has to recover from.

The 29-year-old suffered a torn Achilles last December, so news that yesterday’s injury is season-ending is a major blow for him. The Giants’ longest-tenured player, Shepard has battled an number of ailments throughout his career, and has played a full season just twice in his seven years in the NFL.

When on the field, the Oklahoma product has proven himself to be a reliable contributor in the pass game, though. Starting all but three contests to date, he has reached or eclipsed 65 catches in a season three times, recording between 576 and 872 yards from the years 2016-2020. He had once again been a mainstay this year, logging starter’s snaps in all three contests while registering 24 receptions, 154 yards and one score.

In his absence, New York’s situation at WR could become the subject of even more scrutiny. 2021 first-rounder Kadarius Toney sat out yesterday’s contest due to a hamstring injury, the latest in a long line of ailments which have defined his young career. Kenny Golladay, meanwhile, has been at the center of trade speculation given his reduced role under the team’s new coaching staff and front office. Either of those two could see an increase in playing time with Shepard sidelined for the year; the team also has Darius Slayton and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson at the top of the depth chart, along with David Sills, who has taken many of Golladay’s reps.