For a team with just one victory heading into Thursday night’s game, the Giants were riding an impressive flow of good news that continued right up to kickoff in Philadelphia.
They won their first game of the season on Sunday, watched the Cowboys implode on Monday to keep the division race within reach, then activated one of their top offensive players in time to face the Eagles.
Following a pregame workout, wide receiver Sterling Shepard was activated and in uniform for the game. Earlier in the day he had been taken off injured reserve, the designation he had been sidelined by since suffering a turf toe injury in Week 2.
Shepard, the longest-tenured of the current Giants, caught eight passes for 76 yards in his first game and a half before limping off the field midway through the game against the Bears. He had started 54 of the 55 regular-season games in which he’d played before Thursday with 255 career receptions for 2,838 yards and 17 touchdowns.
It wasn’t clear how extensive Shepard’s role in the offense would be going into the game, especially since his status throughout the short week was up in the air. He has not participated in any full-speed practices with the team since before his injury. While Shepard was designated to return from injured reserve on Monday, the team only had walk-through sessions on the field this week.
Even a little bit of Shepard should inject some life in an otherwise listless passing game. The Giants ranked 30th in the NFL with 187.5 yards per game. Their 5.6 yards per pass attempt ranked 29th.
Asked what makes Shepard a valuable part of the offense when he is available, quarterback Daniel Jones said: "I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think his physical tools. He’s an extremely explosive guy, he’s good in and out of cuts. I think he’s as good of a route runner as there is in the league with what he can do in getting open and then catching the ball. You can trust him to separate from guys. He’s a tough guy to cover one on one."
The Giants also activated wide receiver Alex Bachman from the practice squad to the game-day roster, a move that teams can use this season to expand their roster to 55 players. Bachman gave the Giants some insurance in case Shepard aggravated his injury or if Darius Slayton, who has been dealing with a foot injury, was unable to finish. The only other healthy receivers for the Giants on Thursday were Golden Tate and Austin Mack. Those two had one catch each for a combined 12 yards in Sunday's win. Tate, the 32-year-old 11th-year veteran who had always been among the league’s top players in gaining yards after catches, is averaging a career-low 8.2 yards per reception this season.
The Giants had just three receiving touchdowns in the first six games, all of them by Slayton.
"Darius has done a great job through these first few weeks getting open," Jones said. "He’s an extremely talented player, a smart guy and you can trust him to get open and be in the right spot."
On Thursday night, Jones had another one of those.
Notes & quotes: Besides Bachman, LB Trent Harris was activated from the practice squad. Harris was in uniform for Sunday’s win over Washington but did not play … The Giants were 4-6 on Thursday night games heading into this Eagles game, including 2-5 on the road with two losses in Philadelphia. But Logan Ryan said there is always something special playing in prime time. "Everybody is going to be watching," he said. "You’re going to get a text from your third-grade science teacher how they taught you how to do it or something like that" … While the Giants were in Philadelphia, three players who were with the team but cut after training camp went through workouts back in East Rutherford: WR Corey Coleman, defensive back Monte Hartage and TE Rysen John. Coleman, a veteran, could add depth at the position and also contribute on special teams as a returner … CB Darnay Holes (neck) was inactive. He came into the game listed as questionable.