I am a pure, red-blooded optimist. If you've known me on this site, that seems fairly obvious. So I just had to go and find something, anything to be excited about out from that 27-0 mashing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. Looks like I found one, and it's thanks to a request from Big Blue View regular 'The Curse', who wanted to see some of the route running that New York Giants 2014 first-round pick Odell Beckham produced.
I know this week the debate between the Dallas Cowboys Zack Martin and our wide receiver will rage on, but perhaps a more in-depth look at some of these plays will give hope to the future (and a big thanks to 'Raptor22' for the GIFs, he's the one that gets them for me). So, let's take a look at some of the routes and receptions that Beckham secured in the loss:
Beckham is to the bottom of your screen. He runs a simple '9' route but the reason this GIF was chosen was because of his superior speed and route running. He gets a nice, clean break from the line of scrimmage. Focus on the subtle move he makes right around the 30-yard line where he slows up just a bit and just shimmies his hips inside for a split second. That forces the corner to respect his cutting ability just enough for 'ODB' to turn on the jets and burn him deep and is open for a big play.
Eli Manning stated in his post-game presser that Beckham was open on a few deep routes, but there wasn't enough time to get him the ball. That was not the case in this situation. The Eagles set up in the nickel with a single high safety. As the play starts, it's well blocked initially. They send the weakside inside linebacker on a delay blitz up the 'B' gap which creates pressure. Look at Manning though. He doesn't feel the pressure until after Beckham starts breaking away from the defender around the 32-33 yard line. He just doesn't see him, and instead just stays on his primary read which happens to be Victor Cruz. He sees the free release for Cruz and so he knows he's won that route and sticks with him the entire way on the crosser, which he completes.
I'm not sure what the down and distance was on this play, but a big play was here for the taking. I'm not saying it was a mistake, but had there been enough trust to have Beckham as the primary read, he would have been past the single high safety and it could have been a huge play as Eli had time to throw it deep. This trust will come with time (and probably faster now that Cruz is gone), but it goes to show what could have been.
Here's a play where you can blame J.D. Walton or Manning for Beckham not getting a catch. Eli Manning faces pressure almost immediately and it's a result of somebody either not changing the play (Manning) or calling out the proper protection (Walton) as the Eagles are showing blitz pre-snap. Indeed that's what they end up doing.
It's a simple 'twist; as the weakside outside linebacker (near top of the play) doesn't end up rushing and instead loops back and into coverage. Instead the two inside linebackers crash inside on a pass rush. This doesn't really phase the Giants all that much, as Justin Pugh picks up the LDE, John Jerry picks up one ILB, Weston Richburg picks up the other ILB, and Will Beatty picks up the other RDE. The problem occurs when the Eagles also send their safety on a blitz up the A-gap between Walton and Jerry. Walton just doesn't even see it (or ignores it) and instead helps Jerry with the inside linebacker. The result is instant pressure in Manning's face and a busted play.
Is this Walton's fault? Or Eli's fault for not having Peyton Hillis stay in to pass protect instead of leaking out into the flat? I don't know, but whatever it is, it ruined a pretty nice route by Beckham. He runs an "out" route at the first down marker. What I like about his route as that when he makes his break, he squares body to the QB, giving Manning a nice big target. This has no chance of being completed however, as passing to a receiver running an out route is one of the most dangerous decisions that you can make. You need to have a rocket throw to get it to a place where the corner can't jump the route. With Eli backpedaling and drifting away, there was no chance of that happening, so he wisely throws it away.
Enough misses and near-misses, let's get some positive plays in here. This is a highlight worthy catch by Odell Beckham. He was the primary read on the play and he runs a slant. Before we get to him, though, watch Victor Cruz (at least I think it's Cruz, can't really tell, but it's the guy lined up in the slot right below Beckham). He does a shuffle laterally and fakes a bubble screen. That draws the slot corner Brandon Boykin up and forces him out of Eli Manning's throwing lane to ODB. Pretty nifty.
Anyway, slants are always quick hitters. They are five yards, and then you break and you should be ready to catch the ball immediately. It's a nice, cheap way to pick up 10 yards, with the caveat that if it isn't run well, like any play that evolves in the middle of the field, could lead to a turnover due to the sheer amount of traffic in that zone. Watch Beckham now, he does a nice job of getting up to speed and making his cut. The inside linebacker recognizes the play and closes in, but Eli has already thrown the ball. It's off target, more inside than it needs to be and it's a laser. That's no problem for Beckham, who shows off the other reason for being the 12th overall pick, and that's body control and catch radius, which are otherworldly. He goes into full extension off the ground and snags the ball out of the air like it was nothing. That's a Reggie Wayne type play, and it could've gone for another 10 yards at the very least because Beckham had a clear running lane if hit in stride.
This is Beckham's other catch. Teams still aren't showing him much respect because they aren't trying to jam him, instead going to play soft man coverage. He'll eat that alive, and I can assure you the Cowboys will probably not do that. He runs a really sharp hook route. It's a good thing that he was so precise, because if he wasn't, Eli was going to get annihilated.
Let's first focus on the offensive line and Manning. Multiple failures in the backfield. The first is John Jerry who just gets blown by the rusher with a speed move and is on Manning in a hurry. Simultaneously, Peyton Hillis struggles with a blitzer coming off the edge and forces Manning to step up where the pocket is collapsing. If Beckham isn't wide open, Eli holds that ball for a split second more and gets walloped.
Speaking of Beckham, let's now turn our attention to his route. It's a hook, and watch as he stops on a dime to get separation at the top of his route. Woof. Bradley Fletcher gets owned and there's about 8 to 9 yards of separation for Manning to see. After the catch, you get a glimpse of the play-making ability with the ball in Beckham's hands. He looks small, but he's tough and has a nice stiff arm to ensure getting the first down after a nifty side step of Fletcher on the ground. Terrific play.
The Giants need Beckham to grow up and grow up in a hurry. They need him to become someone that they can trust. That will come with practice. What these first two games of his career have shown me that he's got more talent than any other wide receiver in this division not named Dez Bryant (and even that isn't a runaway by any means). Yes, that includes Pierre Garcon, Cruz, and Desean Jackson. Beckham is showing consistent separation through speed, through route running, and through physicality.
He can be the deep play threat, he can be the possession guy, he can be the short range guy that will pick up your yards after catch. As game tape piles up on him, teams (and the Giants) will realize that and that will make him even more dangerous. It's just a matter of focus, of hard work (and not getting injured), and of building trust and chemistry. If he can continue on this path, there is no question that he will become a star in this league.
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