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Giants’ Sterling Shepard has been a big catch for Giants

Sterling Shepard of the Giants runs after a

Sterling Shepard of the Giants runs after a reception in the second half against the Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Second-round pick Sterling Shepard has met everyone’s expectations in his rookie season.

Well, all but one person’s.

Before Shepard ever stepped onto the field with the Giants, Odell Beckham Jr. was touting him as the next great receiver. He tweeted him (or was it tweaked him?) with a simple number — “1,306” — to signify how many receiving yards he wanted Shepard to have in 2016 to break his own NFL rookie record, and every chance he had during the preseason, Beckham called Shepard the offensive rookie of the year.

“I’m a little short,” Shepard chuckled Friday, two days before the final regular-season game of his rookie campaign, “but I tried my best.”

Shepard’s numbers this season didn’t live up to his teammate’s goals or the standard Beckham set in 2014, when he was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t significant.

In fact, if it weren’t for Beckham shattering just about all of the marks two years ago, Shepard would have broken the decades-old Giants rookie record for catches by a receiver (he has 62), been third in yards by a rookie receiver (he has 653), and gotten within range of breaking the rookie touchdown reception record (he has eight).

Turns out Beckham is a tough act to follow.

“He’s just a different breed,” Shepard said. “I don’t even think he’s human sometimes.”

The rest of the Giants certainly appreciate what Shepard has given them in his first year with the team.

“He’s been highly productive for us,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “We haven’t played as well as we’d like to as an offense in spots, but I think he’s stepped it up. He’s going to continue to get better. He’s a work in progress like a lot of young players, but it’s encouraging to see him grow here over the next phase of the season.”

“Amazing,” Victor Cruz said of Shepard’s rookie year. “The guy has just gotten more and more comfortable as the games have gone on. I think that’s been the best part, watching him grow. He’s been playing phenomenally.”

Shepard, too, seems pleased with his play. And he’s not worried that his final numbers won’t match what Beckham wanted from him.

“Those weren’t my words,” he was careful to point out. “Those were his words, those were his expectations for me.”

But he never shied away from them. “He set that pretty high,” Shepard said, “but if you don’t set them high, there’s no reason to set them at all.”

Notes & quotes: McAdoo said that at one point this week, he tried to figure out the scenarios for whom the Giants will face in the wild-card round. “We had a couple of people upstairs start to explain it to me and it looks like it’s pretty complicated, so I tuned them out after the first couple of words,” he said. “I’m just focusing on Washington.” The Giants will play in Green Bay, Detroit, Seattle or Atlanta depending on outcomes Sunday . . . S Nat Berhe (concussion) was ruled out for Sunday. LB B.J. Goodson (concussion) is questionable even though he too remains in the protocol . . . McAdoo said CB Janoris Jenkins (bruised back) has been moving better in practice this week but still has discomfort and could be a game-time decision . . . DE Olivier Vernon and CB Eli Apple were not fined by the NFL for plays in which they drew questionable unnecessary-roughness penalties last week.

Sterling Shepard’s rookie season

62 catches

653 yards

8 touchdowns

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