Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. carries the ball after...

Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. carries the ball after the catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at AT&T Stadium on October 19, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images

After three games, most rookies are still in their first preseason and the coaches are trying to formulate ways to get them involved in game plans once the regular season comes around. Because of a series of injuries -- to himself and others -- Odell Beckham Jr. is not in such a position.

The first-round pick has been thrust into a prominent role in the offense after missing the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury and then quickly was bumped up the depth chart because of Victor Cruz's season-ending knee surgery. His first three tastes of NFL game experience have not come in August preseason games but in the pressure of October -- including two key division matchups.

"He can't be in that role of feeling it out," wide receivers coach Sean Ryan said on Tuesday. "In a perfect world would we be kind of easing him in and saying, Hey, this is your package for the week? I think in a perfect world you'd like to do that with a rookie. But that's not where we are with him. That's not what we can be doing. He's got to be beyond that."

Which is why when Cruz went down to the turf in Philadelphia just over a week ago, it marked the end of what might be the shortest rookie season in league history.

"I said to him when Vic got injured: 'Congratulations, you're not a rookie anymore,'" Ryan said. "'You're a vet. You have to act like one, you have to play like one. It is what it is. That's what we need from you.' He gets it. He understands."

And he's handled it well. In three games he's caught 10 passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns. Beyond the stats, though, he's shown flashes of ability with his speed and his hands that are making the Giants excited about what he'll be able to do when he has a chance to polish his game. He made a catch that didn't count against the Cowboys on Sunday, laying out for a pass on the sideline that was out of bounds, that had the team drooling as much as any of his scoring plays.

"In the short time he's played for us he's been exciting," quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said. "We'll continue to find ways to get him the ball. Eli looking for him on any particular play is a good thing. He's given us some excitement on offense and another weapon to use."

They found a way to use it when he took an end-around handoff against Dallas. Tom Coughlin also loved what he brought to the punt return game, averaging 10.5 yards on two of them this week. The Giants haven't had a legitimate threat at that position in years.

There's still plenty on which to improve. And get used to.

"It's still all fast," Beckham said. "It's the NFL. Everything is moving fast. I still have to catch myself from time to time telling myself to slow down. I think it's natural when you are young like that and you are coming onto a new level to just try and slow it down. It's a difficult thing to do sometimes."

The Giants needed him to hurry up with slowing it down. So far he's answered their speeded-up expectations. After waiting almost two frustrating months to get him healthy and on the field, his highly-anticipated arrival has been worth the wait.

Off the field, he's also shedding his rookie skin and molting into a leader.

"He does a good job of balancing, understanding that he is a rookie and keeping it respectful, but at the same time understands that within our room, guys look around and guys see talent and they respect talent," Ryan said. "When you show it and you're making plays, it gives you a little bit more of a voice."

Three games in and the Giants are not only trying to figure out what to do with him . . . they're wondering what they did without him.

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