Giants/Cowboys: Odell Beckham vs. Dallas secondary
With the New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys season-opener looming, we assess three critical match-ups for Big Blue. First on the agenda: Odell Beckham, Jr. against the Dallas Cowboys’ secondary.
In year’s past, the New York Giants have lived and died with Eli Manning. A perennially strong defense provided the safety net, but Manning ultimately won or lost games. Half of that remains true today. The Giants haven’t fielded the potent defense they were once known for. Under Ben McAdoo, the Giants have very much been a pass-first, modern NFL offense who must score 28 points to win.
The defense has been upgraded on paper, but football games are won on the field. How effective they are when it counts remains to be seen. Manning and the offense will carry the biggest responsibility in 2016, and no one is more important to it than Odell Beckham, Jr. That’s as true Sunday against the Cowboys as it will be for the entire season, and has been since 2014.
Beckham is the shot in the arm the organization and fans needed. He caught 187 passes for 2,755 yards and 25 TDs through the first 27 games of his career. He’s the fastest player in NFL history to 150 catches (21 games), besting Anquan Boldin’s old mark by four. In year three, Beckham finally has a legitimate supporting cast around him.
Last season, special teams ace Dwayne Harris was the most reliable receiver behind OBJ. It’s no knock to Harris, he contributes any time he’s called on, it highlighted the Giants lack of talent at the position.
This year, Sterling Shepard and a returning Victor Cruz will stretch the field for the Giants. Before taking his first snap that counts, Shepard made Mel Kiper’s Preseason All-Rookie team, according to ESPN. Harris, Roger Lewis, and Tavarres King are capable fourth and fifth receivers behind them.
Beckham (159 targets in 2015) has produced at an elite level even though he wasn’t targeted nearly as much as the two receivers he’s often mentioned with, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. According to NFL.com, Jones (204) and Antonio Brown (195) far outpaced OBJ. The hope is the other receivers play well enough to complement Beckham, leading to increased opportunities. Too many times last season, teams geared their defenses toward stopping him after the half.
Career vs. Cowboys
Beckham’s production against the Cowboys has been a mixed bag. He caught 14 of 17 targets, for 180 yards and four TDs in the Giants’ two games against Dallas in 2014. In two games in 2015, he caught nine of 14 targets, for 79 yards and no TDs.
In four games, Beckham has averaged about six catches, 65 yards and one TD. Outside of the “The Catch” game that put him on the map nationally, Dallas’ secondary has actually been pretty decent against him.
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Cowboys’ CB Brandon Carr has been the primary defender on Beckham, with occasional safety help over the top. Carr is a big, physical corner. His strength at the line of scrimmage has troubled Beckham whenever they’ve met.
He has a tougher time keeping up in space.
Expect the Giants to move Beckham around the formation in Week 1. They’ll look to get him going underneath on shorter patterns to make plays in open space. Dallas’ defense will have to account for Cruz and Shepard, and the Giants hope to get the ball to Beckham when they do. It’ll all depend on how fast the offense can work through kinks while playing at real NFL speed again.