But thats exactly what has happened at receiver, a position at which Darius Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard were supposed to form one of the NFLs most dangerous trios. Injuries and underperformance instead have taken a toll, forced fringe NFL players into larger roles than they are equipped for and put receivers onto the long list of offseason needs.
Everyone has the same responsibility to show up every day, do their job, learn their assignments and execute, coach Joe Judge said. Our level of experience is irrelevant. Its what you do within each game plan and how you execute on the field.
Shepard, 27, is going to miss a fourth straight game with turf toe, after missing six due to two concussions last season and five in 2017 with ankle, neck and migraine issues. He is dynamic when healthy, and signed through 2023, but his history makes it difficult to expect 16 games per season as a No. 2 option.
The 32-year-old Tates yards per reception have dropped from a five-year high of 13.8 in 2019 to a career-low 8.1 after he missed the season-opener. The Giants could get out of his four-year contract in the offseason at the cost of $4.7 million dead cap space.
Quarterback Daniel Jones rapport with his favorite target, Slayton (23 catches for 365 yards and two touchdowns), is encouraging, but there are warning signs the Giants cant go into next season with the same top three. Especially not if backed up by waiver-wire pick-ups and practice-squad fill-ins.
Im not sure if its lack of experience thats hurting us. I think its overall production, receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. The thing I keep telling the receivers is, Keep running your routes, keep getting open and well find you. Sometimes you have to create your own explosives. It might not be 40-yard bombs all the time. It may be slants … get some yards after the catch.
C.J. Board and the recently cut Damion Ratley combined for 10 catches on 240 offensive snaps in the first five games. Before this season, they combined for 34 career catches and one touchdown. The undrafted rookie Austin Mack replaced Ratley.
While the Cowboys have a trio of receivers responsible for 85 catches, 1,205 yards and four touchdowns, and the injury-riddled Eagles are getting big plays from unknown call-up Travis Fulgham, the Giants are scraping by.
When Tate, Shepard and Slayton missed games last season, the Giants fell back on journeymen Russell Shepard, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, T.J. Jones and DaMari Scott. Only Fowler is currently in the league, but at least they offered experience to Jones.
It is no wonder then that Jones has gone four straight games without a touchdown pass a first for the Giants since 1981.
If the long-term solution is to use a high first-round draft pick on LSUs JaMarr Chase or Alabamas Jaylen Waddle to fill the void, that means putting off addressing another major need for youth at edge rusher or right tackle. The 2021 free-agent receiver class will be led by JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay.
Thats then. Now the Giants are searching for their first win, needing more from their current receivers.
I think all of our guys that are here on our roster right now are preparing hard to play and they give their best every day, Judge said. Theyve done a good job working through some scenarios. Were anxious to get them on the field this Sunday.