The motto for the Giants wide receivers these days is “Find a Way.” It has very little to do with their roles on Sundays.
Sterling Shepard, the most accomplished of the group, said it has roots in the internal fine system that the room had instituted under the veterans. It took a bit of a hiatus in the shock from the loss of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris to season-ending injuries, but now it has returned. And it is ruthless.
“We’re getting back on track,” said Shepard, who has missed two games with a sprained ankle but expects to return next weekend against the Rams when the Giants come back from their bye week. “We know we’ve got some new guys in there, so the fine board is back alive. Just trying to get everybody on the same page and everybody get ready for their assignment.”
The players are fined for dropped passes, bad routes, missed blocks, mental errors — in practices and games — all of the things a receiver can do to hurt the team and possibly cost them a game.
“We have to go back to business,” Shepard said. “We don’t have some of the same faces. When you have veterans like Odell and you have Brandon, you don’t have to really hold that accountability for those guys, you know? They pretty much know what they’re doing. But when you have new faces, you kind of have to make sure everybody’s on their Ps and Qs and that’s kind of what the fine board is there for.”
The kangaroo court is just one off-the-field way the Giants are trying to get their new receivers up to speed. It’s an important development the Giants need to happen quickly if they hope to be a functional offense in the second half of the season.
“You’ve got to find out what guys do well and put them in a position to make plays, throw accurate passes and give them a shot to make plays,” Eli Manning said. “We have to make improvements. I have to, not coach them up, but make sure we’re doing things the right way and everybody is playing at a high level.”
Manning said progress is being made, even if he has completed a total of just seven passes to wide receivers in the past two games.
“Everybody knows their assignments,” Manning said. “They’re running the right routes. It’s not on the receivers. It’s not just, ‘Hey, the receivers ran bad routes, that’s the reason we’re not having success.’ I think they’re doing a good job. We’ve got to give them an opportunity. We’ve got to give them shots to make plays. This isn’t the receivers’ fault. They’re doing some good things. It’s our job to give them an opportunity to get open.”
Maybe. But Shepard said that the fines are mounting. Roger Lewis and Tavarres King have limited NFL experience, but rookies Travis Rudolph and Ed Eagan had never played in an NFL game before they were promoted from the practice squad two weeks ago.
“You’ve got guys that haven’t been out there before, so they’re going to mess up a little bit,” Shepard said. “We’ve got a lot of fines.”
What they don’t have anymore is a lot of big contracts. Shepard is the only draft pick among them. Together, the five receivers earn about $180,000 per game. Marshall alone makes $187,500 per game. So while the number of fines has gone up, the cost for them has gone down, right?
“No,” Shepard said. “The money hasn’t changed. It’s stayed the same.”
Even for guys making the league minimum on non-guaranteed contracts?
“Find a way,” Shepard chuckled. “That’s what I’m saying. Find a way. That’s why you don’t get fined.”