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Giants’ WR coach Tyke Tolbert on long relationship with Odell Beckham, more

The Giants receivers coach talked about the impact of knowing Beckham since he was a kid, and how receiver versatility will help the team’s passing game this season.

NFL: New York Giants-Training Camp Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert is in a unique position as he starts his first season with the team. An LSU alum, he’s not only familiar with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but is practically family. Tolbert played college football with Beckham’s father, Odell Sr., and held the younger Beckham in his arms when the receiver was an infant.

But that doesn’t make Tolbert soft on his new charge; instead, he said to reporters on Wednesday, “it makes it easier” to yell at Beckham on the practice field.

It also makes the 50-year-old “feel old.” “I mean, I held him as a baby... and now here he is, I’m coaching him and I’m like, wow. It makes you feel old, but I’m glad to see where he’s come from,” said Tolbert ahead of practices.

That familiarity has made it easier for Tolbert to establish a coaching relationship with Beckham. Tolbert noted that “Odell was actually born when we were in college, so it helped me have an immediate connection with him... When you get here you have an immediate connection, I played with his dad, went to school with his mom, so that made the transition for me to come here and for him to come with me a little bit easier because I have that immediate connection.”

Looking for “the best two guys”

Beckham may be a key part to the Giants’ passing offense, but he remains just one part — which is why the Giants been experimenting with Beckham and the entire receiving corps at multiple spots on the field this offseason.

Tolbert is looking for, “The best two guys, the best three guys, best four — however many are on the field, we want those best guys out there making plays, regardless of where they line up.”

He’s not just focused on Beckham or Sterling Shepard in these situations, either, but rather, “using all of our receivers all over the field. Like I mentioned earlier, the versatility of the group we have, we can play them all over. You will see guys all over, you’ll see all of them line up outside, you’ll see all of them line up inside.”

One example is time spent by Beckham in the slot. While Tolbert noted that, “some guys are better in the slot than other guys,” Beckham’s work there has been part of a broader game plan.

“Odell in the slot instead of lining up in one position all the time being outside or whatever, it makes it harder to game plan for different guys and for him to be able to read defenses... it’s just whatever the situation dictates,” said Tolbert.” Again, he deferred to the “V” word: Versatility. Tolbert said, “I like to be able to have the versatility like we do of having guys all over the place and line up, and you can’t just game plan one spot or the other.”

This is a change from last year, in which New York’s receivers rarely moved from one spot on the field throughout the season. Tolbert didn’t slam the previous coaching staff, noting that he often did the same thing with the Denver Broncos in the Peyton Manning era. But he did say that, “I like the philosophy here better where you can just move guys around and not have them [the defense] dictate what they do, but you can be the offensive aggressive and dictate what they do.”

Tyke the track star?

When that new philosophy has resulted in touchdowns on the practice field, Tolbert is notably running right there with his players. “If a receiver catches the ball, I have them score, and anybody on the field, they’ll score with him and I score with him as well,” said Tolbert, who began the practice with the Broncos. “They started to complain like ‘oh we run too much’, so what I said was, well, if I run with you, you have to run,” he said.

But it’s as grueling for Tolbert as it is for his players at times. “Sometimes we’re backed up on the 10- or 15-yard line and they score, I’m like oh man I have to go 90 yards and then come back and go again. But I hold myself to it.” Why? “It’s a training camp thing to make them score, for one, and then it’s a sneaky way to get conditioning in for them, and I do it so they can’t complain.”

Added Tolbert, “I know if a guy whose 50 years old can do it, they can do it.”