Odell Beckham Jr. spent his 22nd birthday Wednesday surrounded by his Giants teammates, hitting the practice field, sitting in meetings and answering questions about matching up against Richard Sherman in noisy Seattle.
Considering how it seemed like an endless wait for Beckham to finally shed his hamstring woes and start catching passes, it is remarkable how far the rookie has come, and how quickly. There are 53 players on the Giants’ roster and Beckham, the youngest of all, has almost immediately emerged as the best hope for the future as the franchise deals with what is increasingly becoming a dreary present.
In a few days, Beckham will represent the Giants’ best hope of putting a dent into the Seahawks’ defense, the best option for amassing any significant receiving yards against Sherman, one of the finest and unquestionably one of the most talkative cornerbacks in the league.
“Keep attacking,’’ Beckham said. “I am never going to back down from anyone. He has some experience. He is a big, athletic guy that wants to press at the line. Those are all things he does well, so you have to try to find, as few as there are, you have to try and find those weaknesses that he has. At the end of the day, it is football. You have to go out and play football and give it your best. Whatever happens, happens.’’
What has happened with Beckham makes the Giants smile about their first-round draft pick, even though what’s happened lately with the team makes no one smile. He missed the first four games and promptly scored a touchdown in his NFL debut. He hasn’t stopped impressing. He hauled in two more touchdown passes in Dallas and Monday night against the Colts, he was the only bright spot in a bleak offensive showing, catching eight passes for 156 yards in a 40-24 loss. It was the third-most receiving yards for a rookie in Giants history, the most since Mark Bavaro had 176 in 1985.
That performance caught the attention of teammate Antrel Rolle, who is not easily impressed. Rolle noticed a burning intensity in Beckham — “His eyes were bloodshot red, he wants the ball, he wants to be great’’ — and said he wished others played with that attitude.
Facing the Colts, Beckham was targeted 11 times and felt there were a couple of catches he should have made. Beckham was the least of Eli Manning’s troubles, as Rueben Randle was bad and Preston Parker was worse when it came to holding onto the ball.
“I think Odell Beckham has done some really good things,’’ Manning said. “He has shown he can make a lot of plays for us, learning the offense, and moving around in a lot of different spots. I think he is up for whatever challenge is thrown at him and he is still growing as a player. We need him to keep getting better and keep making plays for us.’’
What awaits Beckham is the stiffest test of his early career. Sherman, unlike elite corners Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson, does not get assigned to the top receiver each week. Instead, Sherman lines up at left cornerback and defends against whoever is across from him.
The Seahawks primarily run a zone scheme and Sherman does not play up in press coverage on every play. He’s so long (6-foot-3) and athletic that he can wait for a receiver to show his hand before making a play on the ball.
“It’s definitely a challenge,’’ said Beckham, who at 5-11 and 198 pounds will attempt to use his speed to escape Sherman’s clutches. “They’re a great defense, they’ve been a great defense for a while. It’s nothing that you are not willing to face. These are the games that you live to play for, to go against the best of the best, to go against Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks, the whatever they call themselves, the LOB, the Legion of Boom, to go against all those guys, it’s why not embrace that opportunity, why not take the challenge, accept it and face it?’’
Sherman made headlines for his ranting and raving at Michael Crabtree after denying a 49ers touchdown in last year’s NFC Championship Game. He was a bit more composed talking about Beckham.
“I think he’s fine,’’ Sherman said. “He’s made some plays. He’s made some catches.’’
By Paul Schwartz | nypost.com | November 5, 2014