It’s been almost a month since Odell Beckham Jr. last played for the Giants. Unlike last year, when the Giants lost Beckham in Week 6 (along with a few other wide receivers) and their offense sputtered through the rest of the schedule, this team has been able to function fairly well without its most dangerous receiver.
The three games the Giants have played without Beckham have resulted in a Goldilocks-like spectrum of results: 40 points against Washington, zero against the Titans and 28 against the Colts.
As the Giants head into this offseason, it’s a time during which they almost certainly will field calls from other teams about Beckham’s trade availability, just as they did last year. And that wide range of results makes it difficult to pinpoint what effect Beckham actually has on this offense.
They can score 40 without him one week, can’t score at all the next and then land somewhere in the middle.
With one game remaining — one that Beckham seems unlikely to play in as he continues to deal with a badly bruised quadriceps — the Giants need to ascertain Beckham’s value to them before they start to consider the value other teams might place on him.
Tight end Evan Engram is one of the players who has stepped up his production in the past three games with Beckham sidelined.
“It’s a testament to our hard work and executing when it matters,” Engram said. “There are going to be injuries. Guys are going to miss games. And other guys will have to step up.”
But Engram didn’t hesitate when asked about the successes he and the Giants have had during that stretch. “Obviously, we’re a way better offense with 13,” he said.
Beckham’s presence would seem to help not only the entire receiving unit but the star running back. Rookie Saquon Barkley managed to take over the game against Washington, but in the past two, he’s totaled only 74 rushing yards on 35 carries. He’s had only one run for 10 or more yards.
Without having to worry about being burned by Beckham, opposing defenses clearly have been able to key in on stopping the run, right? Right?
“Any time you don’t have one of your better players on the field, it affects maybe how they do things [defensively], but I thought when we threw the ball, the receivers that played got production,” Pat Shurmur said of this three-game stretch in general and Sunday’s Colts game in particular. “They actually played a little bit more two-shell than you might expect, and they moved the front on us, which is really kind of contrary to that narrative.”
The narrative being, he said, “that they were loading up on the run.”
All of which will have to be tossed into the decision-making stew in the coming months. The Giants clearly are more explosive with Beckham on the field. He’s one of the most talented players in the NFL. But does he make them better than, say, a few high draft picks might?
If the Giants want to start over with a young quarterback, will they and Beckham be able to wait for that player to blossom, by which time Beckham might be pushing 30 years old? Might they want a rookie passer to not have to manage a megawatt personality like Beckham’s in his first years with the organization?
The Giants gave Beckham a five-year extension in August. That may have been more of a temporary peace treaty than an actual commitment until 2023. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Giants are bound to having him around that long, not any more than Beckham signing the document means that he is cemented as a Giant.
Playing these past three games and potentially a fourth without Beckham might give the Giants a glimpse of what they are capable of producing without him. It’s certainly not consistent, but it’s no worse, really, than what they accomplished in the first half of the season with him on the field.
“We’ve just got to do a better job doing what we do,” Shurmur said, “and when Odell is healthy, we’ll welcome him back.”
Unless, of course, they decide that they can get closer to what they do — or what they want the offense to be — without him. That they can build around Barkley and get by with a group of receivers who might not be top-five talents in the NFL but can combine to be a solid group.
In that case, they might just say goodbye to Beckham before they ever get a chance to welcome him back.