There is a very good probability that Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. will head into the regular season without having been on the field together in a game setting this summer. Friday night may be one of the last opportunities for that to take place, and Pat Shurmur gave the “we’ll see” and “we’re going to be smart” answers about Beckham’s participation in the preseason meeting with the Jets that have come to be recognized as a fairly firm “no.”
That’s a strange dynamic for one of the most important on-field relationships the Giants will have this season. Instead of bringing them closer together in the preseason games, the Giants have been keeping them apart.
“It’s very critical,” Shurmur said of the connection between the quarterback and star receiver. “They’re two of our best players, two guys who are going to hopefully touch the ball a lot. It’s important that they know what they’re doing.”
To that end – and without any game reps on the horizon until Sept. 9 -- Manning and Beckham have spent an unusual amount of time working together on the side during practice as well as after the practice, as they did Tuesday. They also did so during pregame warmups in Detroit last Friday, prior to a game in which neither of them played.
“You want to make sure you get those routes and get those thrown so that when you get to the game it’s not the first time you’re throwing it,” Manning said after his most recent practice and his individual workout with Beckham. “[I’m] not concerned with Odell. We have the years of experience and you get a lot of reps in practice, which is important and nice. We have game experience together.”
They’ve connected on 313 passes in those games, but none since Oct. 8, 2017, when Beckham fractured his ankle against the Chargers. That’s a long time between catches. Will Beckham be sufficiently prepped for the opener, coming off his surgery?
Without any preseason game action, which is the most typical barometer in these cases, those who judge Beckham’s readiness will have only the practices from which to draw. The reviews have been positive.
“He looks the same as he’s always looked,” Manning said. “He’s looked great.”
Said Shurmur: “He’s doing really well in practice here.”
On Tuesday, Beckham leaped high and battled with cornerback Eli Apple for a fade pass in the end zone, making a great catch but coming down hard and out of bounds. He popped right back up. Later, in a special teams period, he took a kickoff and sprinted the length of the field through the traffic of the drill. Kalif Raymond gave him a playful shove at the end – not the wisest decision – and Beckham tumbled over before once again springing back to his feet. He beat Janoris Jenkins off the line of scrimmage on a go route and blew past him down the sideline for what would have been a touchdown had Manning not underthrown the ball, forcing Beckham to slow down and allowing Jenkins to catch up and make a play. That was one of the routes the two worked on in their private session.
“They just want to get on the same page,” Shurmur said of the extra work before pausing and looking out into the distance. Something had caught his eye.
“I can see right now through the window they’re out there doing it again,” he said. “They’re out there doing it now, which is a good thing.”
Doing it in a game will be even better. Sept. 9, apparently, will be the first opportunity for that to happen.