Sterling Shepard missed just one game, but so much changed with the Giants while he was sidelined. He will return to the field Sunday at Tampa Bay with a new starting quarterback, Daniel Jones, who has replaced Eli Manning.
“It was different for me at first,” said Shepard who did not play last week against Buffalo because he was in the NFL concussion protocol. “I’ve been with Eli for three seasons now, and the beginning of the fourth, too. He has taught me a lot throughout my career, he’s been a great teammate and he’s going to remain a great teammate. The guy handles everything like a pro. He’s helping Daniel with preparation, and he’ll take his role serious and do everything to help Daniel out.”
So will Shepard, the Giants’ longest-tenured wide receiver.
“I’m just trying to help him in any way that I can,” Shepard said. “It’s his first time being out there in live game action, (and) it’s my first time out there with him. So, that’s where the week of preparation comes into play. You have to be able to be on the same page with him, and just calm his nerves a little bit.”
Like everyone else in the locker room, Shepard has enormous respect for Manning. But the Giants are 0-2 and badly need a victory. Time marches on in the NFL and it’s now Jones’ turn to lead the team.
“It’s nothing against Eli, he played great,” Shepard said. “Honestly, I feel like we could have played better for him. But I wouldn’t call it that either. I don’t think that’s the situation.
“I feel like we can go down there and get a win with Daniel as quarterback. That’s the move that we made, and that’s what it is.”
Although Shurmur has said the offense will look largely the same with Jones at the helm, Shepard sees two differences emerging. The first is when Jones throws him the ball.
“He has a little more zip on the ball,” Shepard said. “It’s still a catchable ball, a great ball, but it’s different. You have two different quarterbacks, two different people. They are not going to have the same ball.”
And it’s no secret that the 22-year-old Jones has the ability to burn a defense with his rushing ability, which has never been Manning’s strength. The phrase commonly used now is RPO, for run pass option, which the Giants can now deploy.
“It’s a different style of play (between) he and Eli,” Shepard said. “He has the ability to use his feet a lot more and you’ve got a lot of RPOs going on
“That’s what I was used to in college being out there with Baker (Mayfield) and a lot of other quarterbacks that I had. It was just the scramble. You kind of have to go over those again and be ready for that on Sunday.”
*Only two players appear on the Giants’ final injury report of the week, both wide receivers. Cody Latimer has been declared out of the game at Tampa Bay because he is in the NFL concussion protocol and Bennie Fowler is questionable with a hamstring injury.
Buccaneers standout rookie linebacker Devin White, chosen one pick ahead of Jones in the draft, will not play because of a knee injury he suffered last week at Carolina.