Beckham is Baltimore’s Biggest Test
Sunday’s game against the New York Giants feels different than typical years for the Baltimore Ravens.
The defense is tasked with taking on Odell Beckham Jr., one of the league’s premier wideouts, yet the feeling going into the game is one of confidence in neutralizing the Giants star.
In any given year, Baltimore’s porous secondary being matched up with any receiver in the Beckham/Julio Jones/Antonio Brown mold would be a concern. But surprisingly enough, the Ravens secondary has allowed just 190.8 passing yards per game, good for fifth-best in the NFL.
The offense in Baltimore may be struggling, but the defense certainly is not. Mix the successful secondary with a Beckham who has been playing (relatively speaking) below his potential through five games, and this seems like a rather manageable task for Baltimore.
But make no mistake about it: Beckham may be “down” compared to his first two seasons, but he is still one of the most difficult-to-defend players in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at the challenges Beckham presents, and why there is no single defensive solution to stopping New York’s top asset.
Baltimore’s defense utilizes both the press and off coverage from the cornerbacks, but quite frankly, neither one is the answer to stopping Beckham.
The two mindsets are: “give him a cushion to prevent him from beating you deep” and “get up in his face and throw him off balance at the line.”
In recent weeks, opposing defenses have implemented both logics, with not much success to report.
In last week’s game against Green Bay, the Packers make the brutal mistake of leaving a single-high safety deep. With two Giants receivers to the right, the safety naturally favors that side of the field.
This leaves the cornerback isolated on Beckham. Given Beckham’s speed and no safety help on his side of the field, the cornerback opens his hips upfield, leaving Beckham with a gold mine in the middle of the field.
Beckham effectively reads the defense and takes advantage of the open field for an easy reception.
Given Beckham’s speed, it seems justified to give him space off the line to negate the deep-pass option. But at the same time, Beckham’s short-area quickness is elite enough to capitalize quickly on just a cushion of a few yards.
An alternative approach is to get up in Beckham’s face at the line of scrimmage. Sure, Beckham is a hot head who lets things get to him, but that occurs after the play. Beckham typically stays level-headed until the whistle in terms of not letting contact during the play affect the task at hand.
Here, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman jams Beckham at the line.
However, Beckham’s hand usage is tough to beat, and he effortlessly rips through Norman’s defense and gets leverage on the inside.
At this point, this simple move off the snap is enough to give Beckham the leg up for the whole play.
He scoots past Norman and quickly bursts toward the sideline, ultimately leading to an easy reception.
There truly is no one way to stop Beckham. The biggest negative to Beckham’s game is that Giants quarterback Eli Manning does not throw to him nearly enough.
Yes, he has 51 targets through five games, but Manning leaves a lot of missed opportunities on the field by not waiting an extra half-second for an ideal passing lane to open for Beckham.
Given the consistent play of Baltimore’s secondary so far this year, realistically holding Beckham to a stat line in the range of 6 catches, 65 yards and no touchdowns would be deemed a major “win” for the Baltimore defense.