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“Efficient” Odell Beckham still waiting for the magic to come back

Big plays the one thing missing thus far for star wide receiver

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Odell Beckham Jr. is on pace for a career-best 128 receptions. At his current rate of 90.3 receiving yards per game, he will end up with 1,445 yards — just five shy of his career-high. He continues to re-write NFL history books.

Beckham is fourth in the league in receptions, 11th in yards receiving and 10th in yards after catch. He is tied for ninth in first-down receptions (13) and is second in third-down receptions that became first downs (6).

On the face of it, Beckham seems to be back to being Beckham as he returns from the fractured ankle he suffered in Week 5 last season.

But ....

There are other numbers that aren’t so wonderful. At least by his lofty standards.

  • Beckham has yet to score a touchdown. He had at least 10 in each of his three full seasons.
  • Beckham’s average of 11.3 yards per catch is a career low.
  • Beckham is 39th in the league in yards per target at 8.0.
  • Beckham has only one “explosive” play, defined as a catch of at least 25 yards. There are 47 players with two or more.

Beckham said he feels he has been “efficient,” and his career-best 70.6 percent catch percentage and the high number of first downs he has generated back up that assertion. The Giants, though, didn’t make Beckham the highest-paid wide receiver in the game to be an efficient possession receiver.

They paid for explosive, game-changing plays. Those haven’t come yet.

“I’m always waiting to break out. I always feel like I’m one play away, always feel like at any moment in time it could be a shallow, it could be a deep pass, it could be a slant, it could go 80, it could 60, it could go wherever,” Beckham told a throng of reporters on Thursday. “Honestly I’ve been watching, and I’ve been feeling and talking to myself and there’s still been times where you’re coming back and I’m used to everything but you’re scared to just hit it like you used to.

“I saw one opportunity that I missed and I was upset about it, it was a slant and it cleared out for me and it was perfect, and I kind of slowed down and hesitated for a second, and that could’ve been the difference. Those are the ones that go 60 or 70, so I was a little upset by that, but I think I’m just – I don’t want to say just starting to get the feel back, but I feel like I said this word, ‘efficient.’ I feel very efficient and I’m just in a completely different place.”

The play Beckham referenced came Sunday against the Houston Texans.

“I caught an inside slant and the way that they were playing coverage, they usually had a safety who was kind of over the top, he was kind of robbing it or doing whatever it is, and I went to hit it and I just had a feeling that he was going to be closing in on me and as I kind of hesitated, the DB caught up and that’s a play that I can’t get back, but I will be thinking about for a long time, every time I watch the film,” Beckham said.

Beckham said he recalled taking that exact pass from Manning for a touchdown vs. the New York Jets a couple of seasons ago.

“It’s right there,” Beckham said. “The fact that I can know and acknowledge it is a big step.”

Dan Duggan of The Athletic found the two plays Beckham was apparently referencing.

First, Sunday against the Texans:

Now, against the Jets:

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula was asked Thursday about balancing short throws vs. getting the ball deeper down the field.

“We feel fortunate that we have guys that can, whether or not it’s a 5-yard pass that can turn into an explosive or catch a ball 40 yards down the field, or throw a ball 40 down the field, and make an explosive play that way,” Shula said.

The best and most important of those is Beckham. With the high-flying New Orleans Saints, second in the NFL in points per game visiting MetLife Stadium on Sunday, this would be a good time for Beckham to re-discover that extra gear that, well, that made him Odell Beckham.

“This is Drew Brees and the Saints we’re talking about. I grew up in New Orleans, he gave life to a city when we were – I don’t want to say hopeless, but we were all down. This is a team who is scoring 40 points a game, what they’re doing over there is ridiculous,” Beckham said.

A couple of ridiculous plays from Beckham might be just what the doctor ordered for the Giants on Sunday if they are going to outlast the Saints.