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November 12, 2018

Leonard: Odell Beckham still has plenty to play for down the stretch of this miserable Giants season

November 8, 2018

The Giants can’t win anything in 2018, but Odell Beckham Jr. can.

Beckham could be the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year this season.




No, really. Forget the Giants’ 1-7 record for a second.

Beckham, one year after surgery to repair a devastating Week 5 left ankle fracture, comes out of the Giants’ bye with 61 catches for 785 yards and two touchdowns in eight games.

That puts him on pace for a franchise-record 122 catches, which would absolutely shatter Steve Smith’s high mark of 107 from 2009, and a franchise-record 1,570 receiving yards, which would best Victor Cruz’s 1,536 total from 2011.

If Odell Beckham keeps up his current pace he could establish several new franchise receiving marks. (Ron Schwane / AP)

And though Beckham’s touchdown numbers and his team’s fortunes are underwhelming to say the least, the star receiver has a history of exploding in the second halves of seasons.

He caught nine of his 12 TDs as a rookie in the final six games of 2014. He caught nine of his 13 TDs in 2015 in the final eight games of that season. And in 2016 he made seven of his 10 TD catches in that season’s final nine games.

So if Beckham finishes the season with, just to ballpark it, 120 catches, 1,500 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, and the Giants win a few games down the stretch, is he really not going to be one of the leading contenders for the league’s comeback player award?

“Why wouldn’t he be?” teammate Sterling Shepard said Thursday.

Great question.

Now, granted, there is one player who may be too difficult to catch if he stays on his current pace: Houston Texans three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

J.J. Watt is also making a great case for NFL's comeback player of the year.
J.J. Watt is also making a great case for NFL’s comeback player of the year. (David Zalubowski / AP)

Watt, who had played in just eight games the previous two seasons due to a pair of back surgeries and a broken leg, has nine sacks in nine games and is terrorizing opposing offenses for a 6-3 Texans team that has won six in a row heading into its bye week.

“J.J. Watt? Now that’s the one giving (Beckham) a run for his money right there,” Shepard said. “J.J. Watt’s tearing it up. But, yeah, I feel like Odell should be up for it, for sure.”

Beckham deserves to be in the conversation nevertheless.

ESPN posted a midseason comeback player of the year poll on Twitter a few days ago that listed Watt, Colts QB Andrew Luck, Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Washington RB Adrian Peterson as candidates.

Peterson, oddly, received the highest number of votes (37%) among the 19,000-plus polled. But he is simply having a strong season after a down 2017 year in which two different teams cut him in the Saints and Cardinals. That’s a hard sell for this award.




Luck and Watson are stronger candidates. Luck has 2,187 passing yards, a 65.8 completion percentage and 23 TDs after missing all of the 2017 season due in part to a labrum tear in his shoulder in 2015.

But the Colts are only 3-5, and Luck also sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder in a snowboarding accident in 2016. Would Beckham be up for such an award if he had done something that frivolous during his ‘comeback?’

Rhetorical question.

Watson has been tough and impressive coming back from an ACL tear in his rookie season and this season has played through broken ribs and a punctured lung. He has 2,389 passing yards, a 64.9 completion percentage and 18 TDs.

His resume also will be tough to argue with if he and the Texans continue on their trajectory. Except as Shepard said, Beckham is “consistent,” with five of his eight games already this season over 100 yards and always the focal point of defenses’ attention.

“You can’t say he’s not consistent,” Shepard said of OBJ.

Maybe Beckham’s unwise and counterproductive public criticism of his team will count against him. But judging on-field performance only, Beckham is tied for fourth in the NFL in catches, ranks sixth in receiving yards, and if he stays on this pace and scores a bit more in the second half, his resume will speak for itself.

And it will show he did what no one thought possible last fall. That’s a comeback.

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