Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is a menace to the NFL, including his own team, the New York Giants.
No one in the NFL is more difficult to cover than Beckham. Julio Jones and Antonio Brown may have better individual stats and be more versatile route runners, and Rob Gronkowski may pose a greater mismatch, but ODB is unique among the most unique pass catchers in the game.
In 2015, Beckham had 5 touchdown grabs of 50 yards or more, the most of anyone in the NFL. In Sunday’s 27-23 victory against the Baltimore Ravens, Beckham added to that impressive résumé. In the third quarter, with the Giants trailing 13-10, he ran an out-and-up, blew past Will Davis, caught a deep throw from Eli Manning and burst toward the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown. And with less than 2 minutes to play, with New York again trailing by 3, he ran a short slant, caught a great throw from Manning, and outran four Ravens defenders for what proved to be the game-winning 66-yard touchdown.
Both scores, especially the second, were even more remarkable considering Beckham’s playing status earlier in the game. In the second quarter, after sustaining a hip injury, he exited the field and went into the locker room. He soon returned, only missing a single series. Later, a few minutes before blowing past half the Ravens secondary for the electrifying, decisive touchdown, Beckham was seen limping to the sidelines at the end of a play.
Although his unparalleled hands, exceptional athleticism and breakaway speed have become his trademark in a very short time, toughness has never been his calling card. As a rookie, when he missed nearly all of training camp and the first four games of the 2014 season due to a nagging hamstring injury, even his head coach, Tom Coughlin, was hypercritical.
But to return to the field, then make two absolutely essential plays for a desperate team reeling from a three-game losing streak, only added a new facet to his legacy.
The Ravens experienced part of that legacy, and joined the fraternity of teams to be scorched by Beckham. But once again, Beckham burned his own team as well.
For all his skills and scores and swagger, Beckham has been a headache for the Giants of late. Beginning with his suspension at the end of last season for repeated violations of the league safety rules, and continuing into this year, Beckham has put himself before the team.
He’s already been fined three times this season; once for over-celebrating, once for an illegal hit against a defender and once for taunting. Earlier this month there was a report the Giants were considering a team-imposed suspension.
That might not be as bad as the potential punishment he could receive from the league. He is definitely a “repeat offender,” given his dustups with then-Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman last season (he drew three unnecessary roughness penalties in the game that preceded his Week 17 suspension) and the illegal block on New Orleans Saints defender Kenny Vaccaro in Week 2 of this year. According to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, the next unnecessary roughness penalty against Beckham could result in a league suspension.
Beckham’s own comment amidst these controversies, that he was “not having fun anymore” while playing football, should be just as concerning for a franchise that leans so much on him for offense.
And despite his incredible performance n Sunday of 8 catches for a career-high 222 yards, Beckham’s emotions continued to get the better of him and cost his team. Following his 66-yard touchdown in the final 90 seconds, he ripped off his helmet in the end zone (or close enough to it), drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The flag gave Baltimore — trailing by only 4 — a slight boost in field position, but the Ravens ultimately failed to score a go-ahead touchdown.
Just because this particular unnecessary penalty didn’t cost the Giants a victory, however, doesn’t mean it wasn’t stupid or that it won’t happen again.
Even with their win, the Giants will end Week 6 in last place in the NFC East. They also might well be the least-talented team in the division. They have one of the worst running games in the NFL while the defense has forced only 3 turnovers and is putting very little pressure on opposing passers. In short, for the Giants to overcome their own deficiencies and leapfrog three seemingly better division foes, there is almost no margin for error. And the best player on offense drawing after-the-snap flags or, worse yet, a suspension in a key game, would certainly exceed that threshold.