The salsa has been shelved for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season. New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon in last night's 27-0 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, bringing his season to an end. Cruz's loss will make things even more difficult for quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' offense, who have struggled to find consistency and identification through the first 6 weeks of the season.
Three straight wins over the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Falcons were shaping up as building blocks for the team to launch itself into the type of offensive attack they were hoping to display upon the hiring of new coordinator Ben McAdoo. However, last night's shutout loss to their divisional rivals, combined with the injury to Cruz leaves the G-men back at square one. There is, however, a possible in-house solution waiting in the wings.
Odell Beckham, Jr. is healthy now, having overcome the hamstring issue that kept the rookie out of the Giants' first four games of the season and most of the team's offseason program. The first-round pick from LSU slotted right into New York's three-wide sets, a staple of McAdoo's offense, alongside Cruz and former LSU teammate Rueben Randle. Making his debut against the Falcons in week 5, Beckham hauled in 4 receptions on 5 targets for 44 yards and a touchdown, playing just over half of the team's offensive plays when he was originally expected to be limited to a pitch count of around 20 snaps. With Victor Cruz sidelined, Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham must step up in a big way.
In Philadelphia last night, Beckham saw 4 targets, catching 2 of them for 28 yards. It was somewhat of a reality check for the rookie after such a promising debut, but the Giants' offense, as a whole, struggled to do anything right against a jacked up Eagles defense. With Rashad Jennings also missing with a knee injury, coupled with a quick 17-0 deficit, the Giants were chasing the Eagles early and often. There will be better days for Manning and company, and Beckham will have a major part to play, especially now that Cruz is done for the year.
With the Giants running more three-wide sets than any other team in the league, Beckham is still likely to see some time in the slot, but should spend most of his time outside opposite Randle moving forward. Cruz had compiled a 23/337/1 stat line through the season's first six games, and much of that workload will now land on Beckham's plate. Randle saw a team-high 9 targets last night in Philly, catching 5 balls for 58 yards in the loss. The third-year man now has a chance to take on number one duties, with the likes of Preston Parker and tight end Larry Donnell absorbing more snaps and targets as well.
Beckham, however, will be an intriguing fantasy play moving forward. McAdoo, who comes from the Mike McCarthy coaching tree, wants his passing attack to be predicated off of Manning getting rid of the ball quickly to his playmakers in high percentage situations. In other words, basic principles of your typical west coast offense. However, it has not always been the smoothest of sailing, outside of the three wins that offset the 0-2 start in which the G-men struggled to move the ball effectively. New York has some difficult matchups on the horizon, starting next weekend in Dallas. However, the volume of work and targets will be in place for Beckham to have a chance to make an impact for the Giants' offense and fantasy owners, alike. Facing a rapid increase in both snaps and targets, rookie WR Odell Beckham is ready to eat.
Chances are, Beckham has already been scooped up off the waiver wire in most formats. Those managers who do own Beckham should feel confident in his abilities to produce as a borderline WR2/3 for the remainder of the season. Beckham, who has also been handling punt return duties, is more of a big-play threat down the field than Randle, who will have to solidify himself as a reliable chain-moving threat for Manning to target, in addition to his red zone prowess.
As we detailed in his pre-draft profile, Beckham is an exceptional athlete who does more than just catch and run. Blessed with large hands, electric speed and great leaping ability, the New Orleans native has the skill set to blossom into a legitimate threat for Manning and the Giants, and even if Cruz had not gone down, odds are he would be in line to see a steady uptick in both snaps and targets as the season progressed.
In his sophomore and junior seasons at LSU, Beckham excelled as the "home run" threat while Jarvis Landry, now with the Miami Dolphins, served as more of a possession target for QB Zach Mettenberger in the pro style attack coordinated by Cam Cameron. Both Beckham and Landry eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the Tigers in 2013, and having already played with Randle in Baton Rouge during his freshman season in 2011, Beckham is poised to slide back into a similar role at the professional level.
Coming from Green Bay, where he served as McCarthy's tight ends coach from 2006-2011 and quarterbacks coach for the last two years, McAdoo will certainly see likenesses between Beckham and Randall Cobb. With Randle cutting a more similar figure to that of a Jordy Nelson, Beckham has a chance to play a similar role to what Cobb has done in McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers' attack the last few years. Like Cobb, Beckham possesses more skills than that of an ordinary wide receiver, able to excel as a return man or as a weapon on designed plays drawn up to get him in space and take advantage of mismatches.
Most importantly, the rookie knows what kind of an opportunity he is facing, and is very keen to take advantage of it, not just for himself, but for his fallen teammate.
“I told (Cruz), I said, ‘Big Bro, I’ve got you.’ I have to step up,” Beckham said following last night's defeat. “All of the receivers have to step up. The offense. Everybody on the team has to step up. I just told him, I said, ‘I got you’ because he’s had me since Day One. That’s the only thing that I feel like is the right thing to do — play for him. He’s been there for me. He’s mentored me, showed me what to do and what not to do, and any time you feel something like that, you have to do it for him.”
“They brought me in, I was their first pick. I know they already expect big things from me. But with Vic going down, I just have to play bigger.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin will surely expect such big things from his talented rookie. Coughlin, whose background involves coaching receivers, is notoriously tough on his young players. Having already overcome a physical ailment that restricted his ability to make an impact over the summer and earlier in the season, Beckham is now mentally equipped to deliver for his coach, his teammates, and now, perhaps, for fantasy owners.
Bearing in mind that Sunday's date with the Cowboys will be just his third game as a pro, it may take some time to attain a level of consistency from a standpoint of considering Beckham as a weekly fantasy play. But with health on his side, and a bye week looming, Odell Beckham could shape up to be a late-season fantasy asset, especially to those owners in need of an alternative at the receiver position.
The salsa may be off the table for now, but Odell Beckham could provide the New York Giants with a spicy alternative. He is, after all, from Louisiana. And just like a hungry boy at a crawfish boil, this rookie is ready to eat.