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Giants’ Sterling Shepard making early impact at training camp

Try this prop bet on for size:

Who will lead the Giants in receptions in 2021?

You can go with the new kid on the block, Kenny Golladay, who is an inviting target and is getting paid ($72 million) to lead a team in catches.

You might want to go with Kadarius Toney, the rookie first-round draft pick, but you understand he is not going to get a plethora of targets so early in his career.

You can hearken back to the recent past and take Saquon Barkley. Heck, he had 91 receptions as a rookie in 2018 and all those dump-off throws out of the backfield add up. But then you remember Barkley is coming off reconstructive knee surgery and he likely will not get off to a fast start to his season.

Darius Slayton entering Year 3 could be a big-play threat, but he is not expected to be a volume producer.

Out of options?

Sterling Shepard
Sterling Shepard
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

No, sir. If you use your eyes and assess what is happening this summer at training camp, there is only one correct answer. It is Sterling Shepard, the player who has been around the Giants longer than any other player, which makes him comfortable, familiar and, yes, at times easy to forget.

Shepard after another razor-sharp practice on Wednesday had one more test, as his two young daughters trotted across the field to greet him, launching their little bodies a few inches into the air. The 28-year-old daddy made the grabs before tumbling to the grass. He was equally as effective during Thursday’s light session.

If a Player of Camp Award were given after two weeks, the hardware would belong to Shepard. He is moving so gracefully at times it seems as if his feet aren’t actually touching the ground. He inhales the balls thrown his way, effortless and repeatedly. His cuts and jukes are crisp, often leaving defensive backs wondering where the heck he went.

There is a bounce in Shepard’s step.

Sterling Shepard
Sterling Shepard
Corey Sipkin

“I mean, I feel great,’’ Shepard said. “I worked my tail off this offseason to come in the best shape. I think that was one of the things that coach [Joe] Judge and I had a conversation about right before I left for OTAs, just coming in shape and being able to be on the field at all times and being able to run around and move to these different positions and being versatile. That’s the mentality that I had going into the offseason, and I can say that I’m in some of the best shape of my life right now.’’

This was not always the case with Shepard. Not that he was ever an in-attentive worker, but at times he appeared to be burdened, either by his own injuries, the failings of the team, the turbulence within a franchise that has sifted through three head coaches and three different offensive systems in his six years.

This offseason was different. He attended passing sessions with Daniel Jones and teammates in Charlotte. He attended passing sessions with Jones and others in Phoenix. Shepard always works, but not quite like this.

“He is a focused young man,’’ wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. “I just see he’s taken it to another level. It seems like to me he was more football-oriented this summer, more than any other time I’ve been here.’’

It shows.

“Yeah, it does,’’ Tolbert said. “He came into camp, he was really in shape, he was sudden, he was quick, he’s making plays on the ball. He’s just doing Shep-type things.’’

If there was a time for Shepard to wander, this was it. The Giants, desperate for help to refuel the NFL’s second-worst scoring offense in 2020, signed Golladay and selected Toney in the first round. Shepard remains a valued member of the attack, but just like that, it was tempting to investigate his contract status and see the Giants after this season can part ways with him for only a $4 million dead cap hit, which would wipe away the final two years and salary cap hits of $10.5 million and $11.5 million.

Sensing this, Judge made a preemptive strike, calling Shepard after the Giants traded down to take Toney at No. 20 overall. Toney is primarily a slot receiver. So, too, is Shepard. Not much connecting the dots is needed to see the assumptions about to be made.

“I mean, we were just adding another playmaker, that was kind of my thought process, but I respected the call,’’ Shepard said. “Grown man to grown man, I felt like that was the right way to go about it and felt good about the call. He just reassured me.’’

There remains a place for Shepard in the offense. Maybe at the top of the receptions list.

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