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Odell Beckham Jr. gives Giants, fans reason to smile

Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants

Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants makes a catch in front of Nolan Carroll #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 28, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

It's asking a lot of a 22-year-old to be the beacon of hope for an 89-year-old franchise with a 68-year-old coach and a 3-year-old playoff drought, even if he is one as ridonkulously talented as Odell Beckham Jr.

But it has worked out before for the Giants. The last time they finished 6-10, in 2004, there also was a positive glow entering the offseason, largely thanks to another talented rookie: Eli Manning.

Then the Giants made some tweaks, including the addition of free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress and a draft class that included defensive end Justin Tuck. They quickly turned into an 11-5 team in 2005.

So that certainly could happen again. But let's be careful here.

While Beckham is insanely good and a more finished product than Manning was in 2004, his ascent should not be allowed to obscure the many problems that ail the Giants.

He is the single biggest reason Manning finished strongly and Ben McAdoo's offense is being hailed as an upgrade and Tom Coughlin probably will be back and that we have rainbows and cotton candy and other nice things.

He is not, however, enough to single-handedly lift the Giants back into contention. They went 4-8 with him in the lineup.

OK, enough with the reality check. On to the fun stuff: Beckham was at it again in Sunday's 34-26 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium -- in the middle of the action, as usual, and putting up impressive statistics, as usual.

The weird thing was that even as he tied his career high with 12 catches and set a career high with 185 receiving yards -- including a 63-yard touchdown -- he could have and perhaps should have done even more damage.

Manning targeted him a remarkable 21 times, narrowly missing on several long-range attempts.

Beckham also found himself targeted by the Eagles, who followed the lead of the Rams the previous week in taking extra shots.

In the second quarter, Jaylen Watkins leveled him with what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit, prompting Beckham to take off his helmet in anger and toss it to the ground. Both should have been penalized; neither was.

"That is up to them if they call it," Beckham said. "There were some calls that could have went the opposite way and they didn't go that way today."

In the fourth quarter, he took a late shot to the back after a short completion. The next play was his long TD catch, which he punctuated by running backward into the end zone, then firing the ball off the wall.

Did the previous play inspire that reaction? He said it probably did.

"I play with my heart on my sleeve," he said. "I do my best to control it and sometimes it gets the best of me. That is part of the learning experience, learning how to control your emotions and how to play through whatever you want to call it: getting targeted and getting hit and teams trying to take me out."

Beckham said "pick your battles" was the single biggest lesson he learned this season.

He also learned how long NFL seasons are. When he missed the first four games because of a hamstring injury, he felt as if "I had already missed out on the party."

Then he turned into the life of the party.

"I definitely have seen us growing in the offense and get rolling," he said. "Unfortunately, it is too late."

On Sunday, Beckham added to his degree of difficulty by battling nausea, including after his touchdown catch, when he missed a couple of plays while vomiting on the bench.

He still looked a bit peaked in the locker room, where Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese came by to check on him. But by the time he met with reporters, his outlook had grown sunnier.

"I am looking forward to next year with a smile," Beckham said. He's not the only one.

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