Odell Beckham Jr.’s relationship with the end zone can adequately be characterized as complicated.
OBJ and the Land of Six once were an item. He was averaging an unheard-of 0.81 touchdowns per game when he signed his contract extension in August, dwarfing the next-closest top receiver averages such as Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans (0.52) and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (0.50) when they signed their new deals.
Beckham’s 38 touchdowns in 47 games, in plainer English, brought him close to averaging a touchdown per game.
Now, though, Beckham’s relationship with the end zone is on the rocks.
“I love being in the end zone,” Beckham said Thursday. “It has been while.”
Three weeks in to 2018, Beckham has yet to score a touchdown this season, and if he is held scoreless Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, he will tie his own career-long drought of four weeks without a TD (done in the first four weeks of the 2016 season). He’s not worried, but he is aware.
“Do I look frustrated? No, I’m alright,” Beckham said with a smirk. “It’s gonna come. And when it rains, it pours.”
Beckham is confident because he knows from experience: when he goes off, OBJ goes OFF. And he often explodes out of his droughts.
In 2016, he burst out of the four-game drought with 10 TDs in the Giants’ final 12 games, helping to carry the team to its only playoff berth in the last seven years. In his rookie year of 2014, Beckham caught a ridiculous nine TD passes in the final six games coming out of the only other three-week drought of his career in Weeks 9-11.
So far this season, Beckham said he’s proud of his “efficiency:” with 11 catches for 111 yards in Week 1 and nine catches for 109 yards in Week 3 bookending a disappointing four grabs for 51 yards in Dallas. Eli Manning did miss him for two touchdowns in Week 1, so the opportunities have been there.
“I feel very efficient, and I’m just in a completely different place,” Beckham said.
But Beckham knows that at his best he is way better than efficient; he is transcendent.
And he should have a chance to unleash his explosiveness on Sunday because the Saints defense has given up 336.7 pass yards per game (third-worst in NFL) and a league-worst 10 TD passes (tied with the Steelers). Atlanta’s Matt Ryan just carved them up for 374 yards, five TDs, no INTs and a 148.1 QB rating in Week 3.
The most encouraging sign that Beckham will break through, however, is actually how constructively critical he was on Thursday of his inability to score in Week 3 in Houston.
Beckham was kicking himself for hesitating on a play that he knows, deep inside, he should have taken to the house for his first touchdown of the season. But he attributed it to some hesitation on his part, coming back from last fall’s ankle surgery.
Second quarter, first play out of the two-minute warning, 3rd and 3 at Houston’s 46-yard line, Beckham caught a Manning pass over the middle and appeared to have the daylight to make his typical magic but didn’t turn on his typical jets. The corner trailing him tripped him up enough for the safety to finish the tackle.
It was a 30-yard gain, and Manning hit Rhett Ellison for a touchdown on the next play, but Beckham wants it back.
“There’s still been times where you’re coming back and I’m used to everything but it’s like you’re scared to just hit it like you used to,” Beckham said. “I (saw) one opportunity that I missed and I was upset about it. It was a slant and it cleared out for me, it was perfect, and I kind of slowed down and just hesitated a little bit for a second. And that could have been the difference. That’s the ones that go 60 or 70 (yards).
“Caught an inside slant and the way that they were playing coverage they usually had a safety over top, he was kind of robbing it, and I went to hit it and just had a feeling he would be closing in on me, and as I kind of hesitated the DB caught up, and that’s a play i can’t get back but I will be thinking about for a long time, every time I watch the film.
“I’ll regret that moment for life,” Beckham added later. “I’ll watch that film and say I could have taken this 80.”
Beckham said don’t worry, though, he does have that extra gear. And next time he’ll kick it in.
“Oh it’s there,” OBJ said with a smile. “I just don’t know why I didn’t hit it. It’s there, though.”
Head coach Pat Shurmur nodded in approval when he heard Beckham was criticizing himself honestly and harshly.
“I’m glad when players say that,” Shurmur said. “(Left tackle) Nate Solder was talking about his play (not being good enough in Week 1 against the Jaguars). When players are critical of their play and still having production, I think that’s terrific, because they’re trying to get incrementally better.”
It’s scary, though, isn’t it, that Beckham thinks he can be way better than he already is?
“Uh, not for me,” Shurmur joked.