The Jets wanted a proven starter to line up across the field from Darrelle Revis, and Lito Sheppard needed a change of Zip codes. It was the perfect match, so the Green & White shipped a pair of draft choices to the Eagles for a man hungry for a fresh start.
"I think people tend to forget what Lito Sheppard is all about due to numerous reasons as far as me not being on the field, but this is a chance for me to revamp my legacy, my passion for this game and my place in history," Sheppard told Randy Lange and myself today on a special edition of "Jets Two-Minute Drive" on newyorkjets.com radio. "I feel like I'm one of the best in the league and I have a lot more to offer to this game, and hopefully I'm going to continue that from this point on."
The 5'10", 194-pound Sheppard, who played his first seven seasons with the Eagles, fell out of favor in Philly last year. After the Eagles spent a boatload of money on former Patriots corner Asante Samuel last spring, Sheppard started just three games and was relegated to special teams duty in the winter.
In Sheppard's mind, the Eagles made a business decision. The true pro didn't raise a stink, remained a quality teammate and never lost confidence.
"My skills, my personality and my abilities haven't gone anywhere. Obviously Philly had different plans with what they wanted to do with me," he said. "I think it kind of all started from the business side and that kind of relayed to them not giving me the opportunities that I've had in the past."
Under Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine, the Jets promise to play a lot of man coverage. When they're sending five, six, seven and eight at opposing signalcallers, those DBs will have the responsibility to prevent big plays and the expectation to make big plays.
"I've been pretty much in that type of system my whole career, even through Florida — we didn't play a whole lot of zone. I think man is pretty much my strength," Sheppard said. "They have an aggressive mindset to play defense, but I think it will work. It's been working thus far. He's had so many great seasons in Baltimore with top-ranked defenses, so he just needs the players to plug in and get the job done."
Sheppard, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has totaled 18 career interceptions and he's returned three for scores. Only Sheppard and former Ravens S Ed Reed have multiple interception returns of 100-plus yards in NFL history and Randy asked Sheppard about those game-breakers today.
"That's kind of my mentality whenever I get to run with the ball — I'm looking to score. I always played a little offense in high school and even in college," Sheppard said. "They don't allow me to play it in the NFL, but I still think I can. I just try to impress and show people I do have some ball skills when I do get it. I'm only thinking one thing and that's score, so I feel like if I get past that first wave of defenders, there aren't too many people in this league who can catch me."
A two-time All-American at the University of Florida (I actually covered Lito a couple of times when I was attending grad school at UF), Sheppard attended Raines HS and was the nation's top corner coming out of high school. He has excelled on every level and he believes he and Revis can make for a dynamite duo.
"Most superheroes need wing men, but I think we're two superheroes who can work together and make that secondary one of the best — not to mention Kerry Rhodes and those other guys on the back end," he said. "It's going to be great."
Leonhard Also Leaves Nest?
Speaking of those "other guys," numerous media outlets have reported that the Jets have reached agreement with former Ravens S Jim Leonhard on a multiyear deal. If/when that deal becomes official (and that means the contract is actually signed), we'll let you know.