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When reporters and media showed up for the Giants’ second Organized Team Activity two weeks ago, there was excitement in the air.
Sure, some of it was normal. The hype and anticipation of football was building and this year’s Giants were going to be seen on the field again, albeit without pads. But more importantly, rookie Odell Beckham Jr. would take the field in front of reporters for the first time after missing the initial OTA.
Was Beckham really as explosive as Jerry Reese proclaimed? Was he a deep threat? Did he have a firm grasp of the playbook?
All watched Beckham warmed up and then jogged over to positional coach Sean Ryan where he stood for the practice’s duration. When head coach Tom Coughlin spoke, he alerted all Beckham had tweaked his hamstring.
None should have been shocked.
It’s not that Beckham is injury prone, inherited the hamstrings of Miles Austin or came in unconditioned. It’s just he was a drafted by the New York Giants at a position that has been snake bitten with injuries.
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) June 12, 2014
Since 2006, the Giants have drafted a combined eight wide receivers between rounds one and three. Not one has escaped without suffering an injury in his first year.
Sinorice Moss (second round) injured his quadriceps. Steve Smith (second round) and Mario Manningham (third round) injured their hamstrings.
In 2009, the Giants selected Hakeem Nicks in the first round and Ramses Barden in the third. Neither avoided the injury report. Nicks hurt his foot and Barden missed time in camp with a barrage of injuries.
2011 third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan injured his hip and 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle his hamstring. Even undrafted Victor Cruz was unable to escape the curse, landing on the injured reserve his rookie year.
When Beckham’s injury was announced, both Coughlin and Beckham himself gave conflicting reports. Coughlin said it could be a bit more than day-to-day, Beckham thought he’d be out on the practice field 24 hours later.
A week and three practices later, Beckham has still not seen the field.
“I don’t know it’s still in the training room,” Beckham said when asked a date he’d return. “I’m pretty sure next week I’ll be back up and running. Just looking forward to it and keep day-by-day progressing.
“I’m not really concerned. Just as long as you’re learning the playbook, when you get back where you’re used to being it will be more of a comfortable situation.”
While mental reps are one thing, the Giants need Beckham on the field. The LSU alum was considered as ‘pro ready’ as a rookie can be and expected to be plugged into the starting lineup. Ideally, New York wanted to feature a lineup with Beckham and Randle on the outside, with Cruz in the slot.
An early contribution from a rookie wide out would be a welcome change in East Rutherford. Aside from Hakeem Nicks, who finished his rookie season with 790 yards, no other receiver had more than Steve Smith’s 131 in 2012.
Unlike previous years, new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense seems to be easier to pick up by wide outs. Under former coordinator Kevin Gilbride, the position was required to read the defense the same way the quarterback did, making decisions on the fly.
When the system worked, the Giants had one of the best offenses in the NFL. When it didn’t, and the quarterback and receiver weren’t on the same page? Well, there were 16 games to display how that went last year.
But those reads are now gone. Rueben Randle believes that alone can lead to Beckham making an impact this season…as long as he can get on the field.
“I think he’s picking it up pretty well,” Randle said. “Even though he’s not practicing, he’s on the sideline listening to the plays and getting mental reps so he’s picking it up. He just has to get back out there.”
‘Get back out there.’ A task in New York many have found is easier said, than done.