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Can Odell Beckham Jr. return to his record-setting ways?

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Will Odell Beckham remind the NFL of his greatness in 2018?

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s a familiar phrase when it comes to injured athletes, but it bears an interesting dichotomy for the New York Giants when it comes to one player in particular.

The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. against the Los Angeles Chargers was a visceral bodyblow for the team, and, frankly, marked the end of their hopes for the season. The loss of Beckham was carried with it a phantom pain for the team, as teammates brought his helmet to the sidelines, as though simply having that “13” on the field with them would bring with it some glimmer of the electricity the player could impart in the team on any given play.

It didn’t.

Fans were often left wistfully considering what the offense could look like “if only...” as Evan Engram — drops and all — established himself as a dangerous red zone threat and one of the top receiving tight ends in the league.

But Odell was hurt, and the games had to continue on without him. And as they did, it seems that without the constant reminders of his talent, some have forgotten just how great Odell Beckham is. After all, it had been two full seasons since the Giants scored thirty points or more, and couldn’t crack that barrier with or without Beckham.

Those who believe Beckham to be overrated — for whatever reason — found themselves with a golden opportunity to criticize the young player without him being able to offer any kind of on-field repudiation of their claims. But it’s worth remembering that while Beckham missed the majority of 2017, he spent his first three seasons in the NFL setting records.

NFL Records Held By Odell Beckham

  • Fastest player to 100 receptions
  • Fastest player to 150 receptions
  • Fastest player to 200 receptions
  • Fastest player to 250 receptions
  • Most receptions in first 15 games (110)
  • Most receiving yards in first two seasons (2,744)
  • Fastest player to 3,000 yards (30 games)
  • Fastest player to 3,500 yards (35 games)
  • Fastest player to 4,000 yards (42 games)
  • Most games with 125, or more, yards in first three seasons (13)
  • Most consecutive games with at least 130 yards and 1 TD: 4 (tied with Calvin Johnson)
  • Most games in a season with at least 10 receptions, 130 yards, and 1 TD: 4 (tied with Tory Holt)
  • Most games (among rookie receivers) with 10+ receptions: 4
  • Most games (among rookie receivers) with 125+ receiving yards: 6
  • Most receptions at home (among rookie receivers): 52
  • Most receiving yards in a calendar month by a rookie: 606 yards (Dec, 2014)
  • Highest average yards per game by a rookie: 108.8
  • Only player in NFL history to have 1,300 yards in a season playing 12 games or less
  • Only rookie in NFL history to have consecutive games of 10, or more, receptions

New York Giants Records Held By Odell Beckham

  • Most games with at least 100 receiving yards as a rookie: 7
  • Most games with at least 125 receiving yards as a rookie: 6
  • Most games with at least 150 receiving yards as a rookie: 4
  • Most receiving yards in a season as a rookie: 1,305
  • Most receptions by a rookie receiver: 91 (second is Hakeem Nicks with 47 in 2009)
  • Most receptions in a game by a rookie: 12 (tied with Mark Bavaro)
  • Highest yards per catch by a rookie receiver: 14.3

Put simply, Odell Beckham started his career better than any receiver in NFL history not named “Randy Moss” — and even then took several of Moss’ records. To put the start of Beckham’s career in a more modern perspective: Despite playing just half as many games a Julio Jones (47 games for Odell to Jones’ 95), Beckham is just seven touchdowns off of Jones’ total. If both players hold true to their career averages of 12 and 8 per season, respectively, they very well could be tied by the end of the 2018 season.

But, to return to the original premise of this piece, can Odell Beckham get back to producing at the historic pace he was before 2017 happened?

Health

After starting the season with a high ankle sprain and then going down in week five with a fully broken ankle — which required surgery to repair — health has to be the top question with Beckham.

Putting aside contract questions, it is fair to wonder just how fully he will be able to recover. whether his repaired ankle will allow him to recapture the rare combination of agility, speed, and acceleration that made him so explosive in those first three seasons.

I am not a doctor (we have InvictusXI for that), and I haven’t seen Beckham’s medical reports. But to my knowledge, there was no soft tissue (ligament) damage, which is encouraging for his chances to return to full strength.

According to Dr. Craig Levitz (chief of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at South Nassau Communities Hospital) who said to Newsday, “That generally is not a big deal. A small plate and screws and he should be perfect and make it back 100 percent. That is the expected outcome.”

If the prognosis is good, from there the next question is “when?” Will Beckham be able to return to the practice field, at full strength in time to become proficient in Pat Shurmur’s offense before the start to the season? Again, results from mini-camp are encouraging, and he still has a month between now and the start of training camp, but it is also fair to want to see him on the field before celebrating his return.

The Shurmur Effect

As I alluded to above, when Beckham returns, it will be in a new offense. An offense at which Beckham is excited to try his hand, after watching Stephon Diggs and Adam Theilan thrive.

At their core, Pat Shurmur and Ben McAdoo both coach offense from a similar philosophy. Both offenses are a part of Bill Walsh’s “West Coast” tree. Shurmur comes from the Andy Reid branch of the tree — and has been exposed to more and varied concepts after parting from Reid — while McAdoo grew off of Mike McCarthy’s branch, but the underlying scheme and philosophies are similar.

But, the way they go about scheming, teaching, and coaching their offenses are very different. Getting in to the differences between the two offensive coaches would go far beyond the scope of this piece.

To summarize, perhaps the biggest difference between them might be that while McAdoo simply relied on Beckham to “out-athlete” opposing defenders, Shurmur’s offenses have made much better use of alignment, spacing, and route design to help his receivers produce.

For a much more detailed breakdown, I encourage everyone to take a look at Nick Turchyn’s two-part breakdown of the differences between McAdoo and Shurmur, and how Beckham could benefit from the change.

Pat Shurmur and The Giants (part 1)

In Defense Of Beckham (part 2)

Final Thoughts

So then, will Beckham get back to his record setting ways?

Assuming he is able to get back to full strength, Beckham should be able to pick up where he left off. Beckham, as a one man show, has proven capable of playing at an elite level and taking over games. Some skepticism regarding his health is certainly understandable, but so is optimism.

Looking at a scheme in which Adam Thielan had 91 receptions for 1,200 yards and Stefon Diggs snared 8 touchdowns, and talent such as Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley elsewhere on the offense, it is hard not to be optimistic that that Beckham could go back to writing his name in the record books.