New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took the NFL by storm in his rookie year last season.
After he had 1,300 yards, 12 touchdowns, and the best catch of the year in just 12 games, expectations are high for Beckham heading into his second year.
However, with that comes greater attention from defences. After a Week 2 preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Giants receiver Victor Cruz said he believes the Jaguars were targeting Beckham — not making plays on the ball, just hitting him.
On “The Michael Kay Show,” Beckham said he agreed with Cruz’s assessment, noting he can tell whether defensive backs are trying to get the ball or hit him by how they’re playing passes:
“It’s like the ball’s in the air, it’s a 50-50 ball and you have a chance at the ball. And you’re just throwing your body in. You almost hit the ball with your back if you’re throwing the body in at me. Then, you know, it kind of takes away from the game of football. It’s not making great plays, now you’re just out there, you’re going after a person. So I understand that could be what it’s gonna be like this year, deserved or not deserved. That’s just what the case is gonna be, so protect yourself. And I know that by the time the season comes, those plays — I’m gonna just have to sit there and take the hits. Because I wanna catch the ball, and I want Eli to keep throwing those balls and him giving me opportunities, you’ve just gotta come down with those plays.”
“Guys have an opportunity to make a play on the ball, they’re not making a play on the ball, and it’s kinda going more towards me. But, like I said, it’s part of the game. I’m not gonna sit there and be the one to complain about it. It’s just like, man to man, if you have a chance to make a play, like make a play. Don’t make the play on me or feel like you’re trying to blow me up.”
While receivers are well-protected by the referees, as ProFootball Talk’s Mike Florio notes, defensive backs have the choice of whether to go after the ball or go after the receiver, even if penalties are involved. In some cases, defences might think it’s worth hitting a player in hopes of breaking up a catch and taking the automatic first down over a big gain.
Beckham also might see increased physicality from defences because of his own style. Last year, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Beckham needed to tone down his celebrations after getting called for taunting. Beckham himself recently admitted, “I know it may be a little bit self-inflicted. I can rub a lot of people the wrong way if they don’t know me. I’m sure a lot of it is caused by me dancing and having fun.”
The NFL is increasingly pass-driven, and as one of the young stars of the league, Beckham will get protection from the referees if defences get overly physical. Nonetheless, he may have trouble replicating or topping his amazing rookie season when he becomes the focus of opposing defences.
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