ARLINGTON, Texas — It is right there, on the highlight film, and will remain there in perpetuity. Whenever anyone views Saquon Barkley’s first NFL touchdown, they will see Sterling Shepard leading the way with his lingering downfield block of Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye.
“It honestly feels real good to me,’’ Shepard told The Post. “It feels like, not quite like you’re scoring a touchdown, but it feels good when you spring one of your boys for a big one, especially his first TD.’’
Barkley’s 68-yard run was brilliant and garnered the expected reaction when the Giants gathered to review the 20-15 loss. Plays such as the one Shepard made — extra effort, coming to the aid of a teammate — are often even more well-received and they can serve as a teaching tool for coaches.
“If I didn’t make that block, who knows what would have happened?’’ Shepard said. “It would have made it tougher for Saquon to get into the end zone. Yeah, you get credit for that, for sure.’’
Shepard missed some practice time this week when his back stiffened up but said he is fine for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said rookie LB Lorenzo Carter got better the deeper it got in the game last week, and Carter agrees with that assessment.
“Just a little bit of nerves, a little bit of just haven’t done it before,’’ Carter said. “It’s the first time being out there, regular season. I’m sure I would say I got better, I felt like I got more comfortable over time, realizing we do this, it’s the same game, the same speed.’’
Carter will again have to carry a large load, with Olivier Vernon missing his second game with a high ankle sprain. Carter and veteran Connor Barwin will share snaps in place of Vernon.
“Just trying to take steps forward, keep getting better,’’ Carter said. “Game two is usually significantly better than game one and it’s the same with game three and so on and so on. Keep taking steps.’’
For the first time in 21 years, the Giants started three rookie draft picks — RB Saquon Barkley, G Will Hernandez and DT B.J. Hill — in their season opener. In Jim Fassel’s first game as head coach, the Giants started WR Ike Hilliard, RB Tiki Barber and S Sam Garnes in the 1997 opener. … Second-year OT Chad Wheeler got on the field for three plays on offense in the opener, used as an extra (and eligible) lineman in a jumbo package that could be used more frequently if Ereck Flowers continues to struggle. “It can help in a bunch of ways,’’ Wheeler said. “Guys just get thrown in there when other players get injured but to have the opportunity to be a part of the offense is a big deal.’’
Eli Manning’s quarterback rating in the opener was 67.8 and he failed to connect deep after Odell Beckham Jr. broke open. “Like the whole offense, I think there was some signs of really good play,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Shula said of Manning. “I loved the way he moved in the pocket and he gets the ball out fast and we just weren’t quite consistent enough and we just had a couple opportunities where if we hit him, we can get points on the board and then it might be a totally different ball game.’’