Odell Beckham Jr. lined up to the right of the formation, awaited the snap count and then bolted upfield. It was the simplest of patterns — a short slant toward the middle — but it was a play that has resulted in several big moments for the Giants’ star receiver.
Not this time, though.
In the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-22 win over the Texans, Beckham caught the pass from Eli Manning and had a clear opening between two defenders. But he hesitated for a moment and was brought down at the Giants’ 22 for a 13-yard gain.
Four days later, Beckham continued to lament his inability to turn the short catch into a touchdown.
“I kind of slowed down and just hesitated for a little bit of a second, and that could have been the difference,” he said Thursday. “That’s a play I can’t get back and will be thinking about for a long time, every time I watch the film.”
That split-second hesitation might be the difference between Beckham putting up the ordinary numbers he has so far compared to the extraordinary ones we’re more used to seeing from the Giants’ newly minted $95-million receiver.
He’s close. He’s oh-so-close.
“I’m always waiting to break out,” he said. “I always feel like I’m one play away. I always feel like at any moment in time — it could be a shallow [route], it could be a deep pass, it could be a slant where I could go 80 [yards] or 60 or whatever.”
Still trying to become fully acclimated after returning from season-ending ankle surgery last October, Beckham acknowledges it’s just not quite there.
“I’m used to everything, but you’re scared to just hit it like you used to,” he said.
That slant on Sunday was the ultimate example. Pre-injury, Beckham takes the ball to the house. Post-injury, he’s still waiting to get into the end zone.
“It’s been a while,” he said of going this long without a touchdown. His last score came on Oct. 8, 2017 — the same day he suffered the devastating ankle injury. “It’s going to come, and when it rains, it pours.”
Is he frustrated?
“Do I look frustrated?” he said with a smile. He insists he’s not.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur actually thinks it’s a good thing that Beckham is critical of his own performance.
“When players are critical of their play and they’re still having production, I think that’s terrific because they’re trying to get incrementally better,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur was asked how scary a thought it is that Beckham might get even better than he already is.
“Not for me,” the coach said.
Beckham insists there’s no cause-and-effect between signing a deal that made him the richest receiver in NFL history and his tepid early-season numbers.
“The contract was a matter of getting paid for your hard work,” he said. “The only thing I care about when I’m done with my career is what is my career going to be? All that money, it could be gone. It could quadruple. I could have $500 million and still not be OK with a game like six [catches] for 75 yards. I could have zero dollars and be OK with 10 [catches] for 290 yards, two touchdowns, wins, wins, wins.
“I care about the glory,” he said. “I care about living up to my full potential. The only thing the contract does is to know you’re [financially] secure. If anything, it frees me up to go as hard as I can now.”
He knows it’s just a matter of time before he puts up the kind of numbers to which he’s become accustomed. And before he turns those short slants into touchdowns.
“It’s right there,” he said.
Sunday against the Saints at MetLife Stadium? As Beckham says, he’s only a play away.