If he’s not 100 percent, the New York Giants should utilize Odell Beckham Jr. as a massive decoy on Sunday night.
Just hours from now, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys will finally face off in primetime. The Giants will be looking to build on their 2016 success versus their bitter rivals and make an early statement to the league that they’re Super Bowl contenders with a win in Dallas.
Their ability to do so will be heavily reliant on the health of star wideout, Odell Beckham Jr. — who suffered a nasty ankle injury in Week 2 of the preseason against the Cleveland Browns.
If Beckham cannot go, head coach Ben McAdoo and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan will be searching for answers on the offensive side of the ball. If he’s healthy enough to, at the very least, play, the Giants could and should use Beckham as a decoy — a niche which he’d thrive in.
First things first, when it comes to Beckham’s health, the Giants must be extremely cautious. His injury could become more severe as time progresses and he must be given the time to fully recover.
But if Beckham is healthy enough to the point where he can play Sunday night, the Giants should look to use him as a decoy.
While Beckham in cleats would signal that his ankle is healthy or close to it, in reality, he likely won’t be 100 percent come kickoff — whether he’s playing or not. Based on his competitive mindset, Beckham is most likely going to do whatever possible to play in Dallas. But that may result in the Pro Bowler playing with pain whether he admits it or not.
So when you take into account his injury, the Giants would be wise to strategically limit Beckham’s role. While he’d still line up on the outside and garner the majority of Dallas’ attention, the Giants would be running their offense through the rest of their deep receiving core.
With free agent signee, Brandon Marshall, second-year man Sterling Shepard and even tight end Evan Engram all present, the Giants have the depth behind Beckham to make up for him not being at full strength and/or limited.
In working with the ones behind Beckham, Eli Manning could finally begin to get some work and passes under his belt to both Marshall and Shepard — which he was unable to do in the preseason via injuries and playing time. With Rod Marinelli’s defense fortifying its efforts towards shutting down Beckham, the attention will be off Marshall, Shepard and company; that will allow Manning to get everyone involved and potentially blossom in their West Coast offense.
While limiting Beckham’s role on Sunday night may sound absurd, it makes sense for both his health and the Giants ability to win its fourth consecutive game versus the Cowboys.
If he is not 100 percent — which appears to be the case at the moment — running the offense and forcing plays to Beckham does no good for his health. Plus, Dallas’ secondary will be looking to put pressure on Beckham’s ankle which would essentially deprive Beckham of his quickness. If he hurts himself even more as the focal point, McAdoo and the Giants will face disgust from management and fans.
On the other hand, from a strategic standpoint, the Cowboys will likely play Beckham the same way 90 percent as they would if he were fully healthy. If they buy into the Giants running their offense through him — using him as a decoy does not do — then Marshall and Shepard will attract less attention and get open more easily.
If Marshall and Shepard can execute the plan — that being them serving as the focal points — then they can begin to develop chemistry with their quarterback.
It’s imperative that Manning becomes adept at finding his receivers in the open field, Marshall especially. The 6-foot-4 veteran (Marshall) is a crucial piece to the puzzle for the Giants this season. They need him to be Manning’s second option on the outside and in order for him to do so, they’ll need to get on the same page as soon as possible. While not ideal, that could mean using Beckham as a decoy until he’s fully healthy.