Player rivalries are nothing new in the National Football League. They certainly aren’t new to the New York Giants.
Fans will have to wait until 2018 for the next chapter of Odell Beckham Jr. versus Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. During Sunday’s 34-29 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, another rivalry was brought to the surface: Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard and Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles and Giants got involved in a mild tussle. Shepard and Jenkins got into it on a running play, locking limbs before they went to the ground together. Their teammates eventually joined the fray but nothing happened more than some pushing, shoving, and trash talking. The tussling didn’t last long because there was still a game to play and the officials didn’t throw a single flag.
This could be the beginning of a rivalry on par with Beckham vs. Norman.
“The guy over the top of me, 27 [Jenkins], he didn’t like the way I did him,” Shepard said. “So, he tried to get after me a little bit. I have to be better at that too. Can’t let that get to us and affect the team.”
Shepard has made mincemeat out of the Eagles with 28 receptions for 383 yards and four touchdowns in four career games. He had 11 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
But Shepard’s emotions got the best of him before the tussle. Earlier in the game, the officials called an incomplete pass when he thought the catch was made. Later, on what would have been the Giants’ game-winning drive, Shepard yelled at an official because pass interference wasn’t called when quarterback Eli Manning tried to hit rookie tight end Evan Engram.
Shepard was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for yelling at the official. He later admitted that he played right into Jenkins’ hands.
“Probably so. He does all that move stuff to get under your skin,” Shepard said. “Doesn’t really work with me.”
Jenkins agreed with Shepard, confirming that he was trying to get the second-year receiver off his game.
“Completely accurate. I try to get under everybody’s skin that I play,” Jenkins said. “I want to own you not only physically but mentally. I don’t think I did anything outside the rules or dirty. I’m just an annoying player.”
Shepard said Jenkins wasn’t doing anything out of character on Sunday.
“Every time we play,” Shepard said. “He had some words to say and I did too.”
Jenkins said he respects Shepard’s game and has no problem with the back-and-forth.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a young guy. I got a lot of respect for him,” Jenkins said. “I think that is part of the reason he’s so successful is because he’s got a lot of fight in him especially as a younger guy, smaller guy.”
This isn’t the last time Giants and Eagles fans will be treated to this budding rivalry. Jenkins is signed with the Eagles through the 2020 season so there will be at least six more times that these two players face each other.