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Giants receivers prepare for life without Odell Beckham Jr.

Look for the ball to be spread around more in 2019

NFL: Chicago Bears at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

In case you’re still in denial, yes, the New York Giants really did trade Odell Beckham Jr., their most productive and consistent receiver in years, to the Cleveland Browns.

Since entering the NFL as the No. 12 overall pick in 2014, Beckham has recorded 1,000-yard seasons in all but 2017, that year being his injury-shortened campaign. That’s consistent and productive.

But this isn’t about Beckham. Instead, this is a look at how the Giants plan to replace Beckham in their lineup.

The answer is they don’t. Players, coaches, and fans all believe that a player is replaceable, but what is being replaced is the production.

Beckham’s on-field departure is both a blessing and a curse for the Giants.

It’s a blessing because there is no longer the need to feed one guy the ball a dozen or so times per game.

Moving forward, the Giants are going to spread the ball around, which is not necessarily a bad approach given their collection of different receiving targets.

On the flip side, not having Beckham is a curse because he entertains the crowd with his play, with or without the other 10 guys on offense supporting him.

The question is not necessarily who will be the “next Beckham,” but rather how they plan to generate Beckham’s production.

Will the receivers, who in 2018 accounted for 42.1 percent of the team’s total receiving yards (a decline from the 55 percent yardage contribution rate they had in 2017), keep that pace?

Or will the running backs (13.9 percent in 2018) and tight ends (15.1 percent in 2018) see their contributions increase?

It’s undoubtedly going to be an interesting statistic to analyze at the end of 2019 because it will tell us a lot about the direction this offense is headed.

The Projected Depth Chart

Starters: Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard
Backups: Corey Coleman, Russell Shepard, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Alonzo Russell, Brittan Golden, Alex Wesley, Reggie White Jr.

Last year, the Giants didn’t have a designated third receiver, instead auditioning a different guy every week, that partially due to injury and partly to performance.

That’s not likely to change this year either, as coach Pat Shurmur seems more concerned with matchups between receivers and defensive backs than he does pecking order at the position.

Let’s look at some of the receivers not named Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate who have a good chance of landing on the 53-man roster.

They have Corey Coleman, a former first-round pick of the Browns, and Darius Slayton, this year’s fifth-rounder, who are the guys capable of slicing the top off the defense. Both should make the team barring injury, but it will be interesting to see if the Giants keep both for the long term.

There will probably be a competition between Russell Shepard and Cody Latimer for a spot at the bottom of the “depth chart,” with the winner likely to be decided by his special teams play.

Shepard was a core special teams player last year while Latimer was primarily a return specialist who needs to hang onto that role if he wants a roster spot. At the very bottom of the depth chart, can Bennie Fowler, a late-season pickup last year, hold off youngsters Wesley, a premium undrafted free agent, and White?

In short, the receiver position is going to be very competitive, especially once you get past projected starters Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate.

The big question

Will the Giants have a 1,000-yard receiver?

This goes back to the question of how the Giants will replace Beckham, who seemed to rack up those 1,000-yard seasons with ease.

A better question to contemplate is whether the Giants need to have a 1,000-yard receiver to be successful?

According to Pro Football Focus, of the five Giants receivers who had at least 15 pass targets, the reception percentage ranged from 55.6 (Russell Shepard) to a team-best 68.8 (Latimer).

Sterling Shepard and Beckham finished tied for second with a 64.7 percent catch rate. And there was a total of 13 dropped balls from the Giants receivers alone in 2018.

The 1,000-yard receiving seasons for individuals are nice, but a team whose receivers are catching 65 percent or better of the catchable pass targets is a lot better. While some of that lies on the quarterback, it does take two to record a reception.

Another reason why the Giants probably don’t need to have a 1,000-yard receiver to be successful has to do with predictability. How many times in the past was it evident that Beckham was going to be the intended target?

Well if the fans watching from the stands or on television knew it, don’t you think the opposing defense knew it and adjusted the coverage accordingly?

So just think how much less predictable the Giants offense stands to be if the coaches feature a different “receiver” in the weekly game plans.