Sterling Shepard says this year's Giants are better at 'keeping things in-house'
The third-year receiver also thinks New York has already endured its toughest defensive test of 2018
The New York Giants may have lost their first game of 2018, but the team's culture under first-year head coach Pat Shurmur is an early-season victory.
Or at least that's how Sterling Shepard sees it.
The third-year wide receiver was around for all of New York's tumultuous 2017 campaign -- the internal suspensions, the unceremonious Eli Manning benching and coach Ben McAdoo's early dismissal amid a 3-13 finish. A year later, starring in New Era Caps' new NFL Sideline campaign alongside Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Shepard thinks the Giants have a different vibe.
"I think (we're) keeping things in-house," he said in a phone interview this week. "Last year, we had a lot of things get leaked out, just personal things, and we let that slip out into the media. I think this team is more closely knit."
It's a maturation, he adds, that almost mirrors Shepard's own journey. A high-profile wideout from the get-go in part because he lines up opposite Odell Beckham Jr., the former second-round pick had his first child in August, and since then, much like the Giants, he's been prioritizing a new attitude.
"It just changes the way you carry yourself," he said. "You have a mouth to feed and a family to provide for. It forces you to grow up a little faster, especially at my age where I've got a lot of friends doing different things, going out. You have to get your priorities straight."
Of course, none of that necessarily equates to the Giants rebounding from their last-place finish in 2017. But it gives Shepard confidence that New York is far better prepared for the highs and lows of the season this time around.
"I have a lot of faith in this team," he said. "We feel good. Guys are mentally all there. We'll be fine."
Another reason he believes the Giants are trending upward has to do with who they played in Week 1. New York struggled to score against the Jacksonville Jaguars on opening day despite a combined 16 catches for Beckham and Shepard, and that preceded some trash talk from infamous Jags corner Jalen Ramsey -- Shepard says "that's my boy, so of course we're going to talk mess to each other." But Shepard also thinks things will only be smoother starting in Week 2.
"That was probably the top defense that we'll face for the rest of the season," he said.
In between games, the receiver will appear in New Era's promotions for the Sideline caps that players sport on the field. An avid fan of the 9FIFTY snapback, he's been wearing the brand since he was young and has "so many hats I can't even count 'em" -- enough that he and his growing family are "starting to run out of space" and "need to move here pretty soon." So the fit was natural.
Most of all, though, he's focused on that new, refreshing New York attitude, which he desperately hopes puts the Giants back into contention.
"My rookie season, we went to the playoffs," he said, "but we didn't capitalize on getting into the next round. Early on in your career, you don't realize how special it is to be there. You have guys that have been in the league for 10 years and have never been in a playoff position. That's where we want to be."
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