John Bazemore/Associated Press
Odell Beckham Jr. finished Monday’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with eight catches for 143 yards and a last-second touchdown. The performance wasn’t good enough. Despite all of his talent and his becoming the fastest player ever to reach 5,000 receiving yards, he’s not good enough to solve the Giants’ offensive problems. As a result, New York is merely wasting his talent.
Beckham couldn’t have looked unhappier as the game clock wound down and the New York Giants lost 23-20. The wide receiver operates under a microscope unlike any other for a non-quarterback, and his attitude is constantly questioned.
“I wish he would create the headlines by his play on the field as opposed to what he says and does off the field,” Giants co-owner John Mara told reporters last week at the NFL‘s Fall League Meeting. “I think he needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking.”
Well, Beckham came out and balled six days later. Didn’t matter. The Giants don’t have the surrounding cast for the receiver to make a difference.
Jason E. Miczek/Associated Press
The Giants continually fail to maximize the wide receiver’s full potential, because quarterback Eli Manning isn’t hitting on each of the available opportunities, specifically in the red zone. Furthermore, the entire offense isn’t constructed in a manner to truly feature Beckham’s dominant skill set.
Sure, some of the blame will fall on the coaching staff after a couple of questionable decisions, especially a blown two-point conversion and Manning’s failed quarterback sneaks.
Some may want to ignore the main problems, poor quarterback play and an awful offensive line, and blame head coach Pat Shurmur for the loss. But really, what did the coach call that was so bad? The failed conversion attempt didn’t affect the outcome, and a 6’5″ quarterback should be able to punch the ball into the end zone near the goal line.
“You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there,” Shurmur said after the game when reporters asked why the Giants went for two, per Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab. “Then if we score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win.”
Instead, everything leading up to the last-minute rally is what everyone should concentrate on, because continued mistakes and missed opportunities are exactly why the Giants are 1-6 without much hope for the immediate future.
Here’s the funny part: Manning played arguably his best game of the season by completing 71.1 percent of his passes for 399 passing yard. Box-score scouting isn’t good enough, though.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Manning can no longer drive the ball down the field like he once did, he’s unwilling to pull the trigger on some throws and his lack of mobility under pressure is killing any rhythm the offense is trying to establish.
Each of these issues reared its ugly head during the contest. The second point is the most crucial.
Yes, Manning targeted Beckham numerous times late in the contest, but the effort came after he made a few egregious non-throws, and both the receiver and the head coach grew frustrated with their quarterback’s decision-making process.
Once upon a time, Manning was counted among the league’s best when it came to instant understanding of a defense. Granted, he’s never been his brother yet still good enough to lead a pair of Super Bowl-winning squads. The moment was never too big for the laid-back New Orleans native.
The same demeanor no longer matters when a signal-caller shows signs of diminishing skills and can’t make the plays he once did.
He missed Beckham twice early in the game for easy touchdowns. Twice. The first is somewhat more excusable than the second:
Yahoo Sports NFL @YahooSportsNFL
Eli Manning missed a WIDE OPEN Odell Beckham Jr. in the end zone 😢
#NYGvsATL | #GiantsPride https://t.co/c5fwEAQRFQ
The 15-year veteran obviously spotted zone coverage in the end zone and threw to a certain spot. Beckham may have even slipped slightly coming off his break. Either way, the Giants could have scored a touchdown much earlier in the contest without having to mount a late comeback that fell short. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen.
The second miss is inexcusable.
Beckham worked his way across the formation and ran a route to the flat—which should have turned into an easy score, as CBS Sports’ Brandon Tierney noted. Nope.
Brandon Tierney @BrandonTierney
If you can’t see this, you really shouldn’t be playing. I’m sorry, but in the NFL, this is WIDE open with a FAVORABLE matchup. https://t.co/klQzpL3KL8
At least Manning attempted passes in these instances. It’s those where he isn’t willing to throw into tight windows that really show his limitations.
Yes, three of the receivers were covered. Two of them still had leverage on their defenders. Manning may have been pressured, but the fourth is standing in the middle of the end zone completely uncovered, per The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin:
Ben Baldwin @benbbaldwin
“THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO GO WITH THE FOOTBALL please play no mind to the uncovered receiver we didn’t circle” https://t.co/fs9bfcFeOn
Frustration bubbled over, and not just from Beckham. Clearly, Shurmur wants Manning to use his best available weapon, especially in crucial instances, via NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark:
John Clark @JClarkNBCS
“What? Throw to Odell”
@MattLombardoNFL @BruceBeck4NY @JordanRaanan https://t.co/QhSYXUONXe
Beckham and Shurmur had to share a moment afterward:
When will it be alright, though? Nothing portends a radical turnaround with a milksop expected to perform at quarterback.
Manning deservedly gets most of the blame, but he isn’t playing behind a sturdy offensive front.
The Giants made Nate Solder the NFL‘s highest-paid offensive lineman this offseason. He surrendered two sacks against the Falcons’ edge-rushers. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett blew right past rookie left guard Will Hernandez for another. The team had to reshuffle the rest of its interior with its third starting center, Spencer Pulley, and veteran John Greco moving from the pivot to right guard. Chad Wheeler may not be Ereck Flowers—which is a good thing—but he’s also not a starting-caliber right tackle.
As a result of the porous blocking, the Falcons registered four sacks and hit Manning nine more times. The statuesque pocket-passer doesn’t have the mobility to evade pressure, let alone expand the playbook by moving the pocket. Instead, Shurmur tries to employ 11 personnel as much as possible, block pressure packages with five linemen and the quarterback gets killed. According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, Manning is on pace to be sacked a career-high 55 times.
What’s the alternative? A rookie will lead the way—this year, next year or both.
Eventually, the Giants must find out what they have in this year’s fourth-round pick, Kyle Lauletta. He’ll be the starting point.
Right now, New York is one of four teams with one victory. The Giants are the only one in need of a starting quarterback. Thus, they’re positioned well to draft next year’s top prospect at the game’s most important position. It’s a somewhat exciting proposition, even during a failed campaign.
However, the implications extend further down the road. By bypassing a top signal-caller in this year’s draft, the Giants are now another season behind in developing a top talent. How long before the next starting quarterback is ready and performing at a satisfactory level? This will shave even more time off of Beckham’s prime years.
To put Beckham’s performance during such futility into perspective, he broke a Giants record with his 23rd 100-yard receiving effort in only 54 games. New York is 27-44 overall since choosing the wide receiver with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Beckham is stuck on an awful squad on which his greatness is nothing more than a side attraction.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.