EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The days of Tom Coughlin easing in the rookies for the New York Giants are long gone. Ben McAdoo is the new coach, and he appears to have a completely different philosophy.
“I trust them right now,” McAdoo said. “We’re not going to be afraid to play young players here.”
That was music to the ears of Shepard, who already is working primarily with the first-team offense. Third-round pick Darian Thompson worked with the first-team defense at safety, and fourth-round pick B.J. Goodson is competing for the starting middle linebacker job.
“That’s great to hear as a rookie," Shepard said. "I kind of knew that coming in. Getting drafted in the second round you’re expected to play. Along with the other guys, the other rookies, I think we all understand that if you make plays you’re going to be out there playing on Sunday. That is what we’re all striving for and it’s good to hear as a rookie.”
Shepard was playing outside and in the slot during Saturday’s practice, depending on whether Victor Cruz was on the field. Cruz is returning from back-to-back serious injuries but completed his second consecutive practice without limitations.
Apple was in a three-man rotation with starting cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins on the outside. He didn’t take a single rep in the slot on Saturday. Rodgers-Cromartie did during a non-live period.
“We’re going to use them all,” McAdoo said. “We’re going to use all those guys. We trust them. We’re going to give them a chance to compete against each other. I think that creates a great atmosphere.”
The Giants are still experimenting at slot cornerback. Trevin Wade took most (if not all) the first-team reps at the first two practices of the summer. But the Giants are still surveying their options.
McAdoo said they’ll know more once they put on the pads on Tuesday.
"Get a chance to get out there and be physical in the slot, because that has a lot to do with it," McAdoo said. "It’s a physical game inside there."
Apple isn’t a natural slot cornerback. His experience there is limited. He rarely lined up in the slot at Ohio State before being the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft.
There's going to be an adjustment period if he's asked to play that position.
“That’s what practice is for,” Apple said.
With veterans such as Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins on the roster, it will be harder for Apple to get on the field than Shepard, who blew away the Giants in the spring with his precise route-running ability and strength catching the football in traffic. He quickly earned the trust of quarterback Eli Manning and worked his way into the first-team mix. That carried over to this summer.
The Giants have been impressed with most of what they’ve seen from the Oklahoma product.
“[Shepard] seems like a young pro,” McAdoo said. “He seems like a young man who is committed to his craft, and being a pro is important to him. That is what you’re looking for in a young player.”
And among the reasons he should be on the field plenty this season despite being a rookie. That and McAdoo isn't going to be afraid to play his younger players.