The Giants lost a starting-caliber receiver to injury the same day they got one back.
Collin Johnson tore his right Achilles during Wednesday’s practice, the same afternoon that Sterling Shepard made his training camp debut.
Johnson, 24, has been the standout of the Giants’ camp. He had earned regular first-team reps, and his 6-6 frame had given the offense a high-functioning big receiver target with Kenny Golladay off to a slow start.
“The guys who have been out there and are producing — guys like Collin Johnson and David Sills — they’ve stepped up and they’re right in the mix, not just to make the team but to play,” head coach Brian Daboll had said Monday.
The Giants’ projected Week 1 starters at receiver seem to be Shepard, Golladay and second-round rookie Wan’Dale Robinson.
Sills is pushing for a large role. Kadarius Toney continues to spend more time on one knee at practice than he does on two feet.
His right hamstring appeared to be bothering him Wednesday during his only work in individuals. He has failed to fully practice in 10 of the team’s 17 practices this summer.
Darius Slayton continues to work on the side after he “tightened up” in the Giants’ preseason opener at New England. He projects as an end-of-camp cut. It’s not clear if injuries to other players can change that.
At least Shepard, 29, is back after being activated off the physically unable to perform list.
The veteran Giant has a good rapport with Jones, having played three seasons together. He looked strong on Wednesday in his first practice since tearing his left Achilles on Dec. 19.
He ran in motion with Jones’ first-string offense on one play Wednesday, and he caught a pass from backup QB Tyrod Taylor up the left side.
“It felt great, man, just being back on the field,” Shepard said after practice.
Shepard took a pay cut this offseason on a restructured contract to remain with the team. It’s a good thing he did.
They need him.
The Giants placed Johnson and wide receiver Marcus Kemp (hamstring) on injured reserve. They have put seven players on IR since the start of training camp.
Giants GM Joe Schoen also cut tight end Jordan Akins and claimed three players off waivers: wide receivers Jaylon Moore and Bailey Gaither from the Baltimore Ravens, and corner Harrison Hand from the Minnesota Vikings.
Hand, 23, is the only one of those three with NFL game experience. The Cherry Hill, NJ, native, who finished his college career at Temple, appeared in 23 games for the Vikings the past two seasons, logging significant special teams snaps.
His experience at gunner on punt coverage could be key. The Giants are thin there.
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Daboll is trying to get his team’s conditioning level up, but after a light spring and early camp workload, lots of players fought through Wednesday’s practice. It was possibly the Giants’ hardest practice of camp considering they were in pads, plus the workload of plays, the heat and the duration. Running back Matt Breida even needed oxygen at one point.
Daboll had the players and coaches run conditioning sprints at one point — we thought that was frowned upon? — but Johnson, Kemp and Alex Bachman all sustained injuries or tweaks to continue this camp’s primary theme: injuries.
It was at least encouraging to see the Giants get some of their injured players back on the field, like center Jon Feliciano, center/guard Jamil Douglas, guard Josh Ezeudu, corner Cor’Dale Flott and running backs Gary Brightwell and Breida.
But edge Kayvon Thibodeaux (sprained right MCL), guard Shane Lemieux (foot) and edge Elerson Smith (right foot in boot) were nowhere to be seen. And several players worked on the side or were limited: Toney, Slayton, wideout CJ Board, center/guard Ben Bredeson, edge Jihad Ward, guard Garrett McGhin and corner Rodarius Williams.
The Giants host the Jets Thursday for a joint practice in East Rutherford.
Shepard admitted facing the Jets means a little more.
“It’s always been like a little rivalry with them,” Shepard said. “Those guys are fired up. It’s like who’s going to be the little brother, you know what I mean? So we’re getting prepared for them. And we’re looking forward to the game.”