ALLEN PARK, Mich. — While one of the Giants’ big playmakers was sidelined by a recent injury, another seemed to be ramping up his participation and his productivity.
Odell Beckham Jr. was a virtually unlimited participant in Tuesday’s joint practice with the Lions, running routes in one-on-one drills, taking part in full team reps, and hauling in some passes that elicited groans from the crowd watching, most of whom were wearing the powder blue of their favorite team. Had he put on such a show at the Giants’ facility in New Jersey, the cheers would have been deafening.
Pat Shurmur downplayed the performance.
“He was out there practicing today,” he said. “He did great. I mean, you’ve watched him all summer here competing in practice. If you create the same setting against a different team, then you’re just out there practicing and that’s what he did.”
The competition against another team seemed to bring him to a different level, though, one that the Giants have not yet seen as Beckham continues to return from ankle surgery last year.
Lions All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay certainly noticed Beckham.
“He’s catching the rock and running the rock,” Slay said after practice. “He’s always been explosive. He’s never going to lose that, except when he’s 50, I suppose. But he’s always been explosive. Other than that, he’s Odell.”
On his first one-on-one rep of the day, he blew past Lions cornerback Chris Jones and pulled in a deep pass from Eli Manning down the left sideline. In 11-on-11s, he came across the middle and reached up to catch a pass on the run. And in a two-minute drill late in the workout, he came across the field and caught a pass from Manning on a slant for what would have been a long gain if not a touchdown. The play was whistled dead a little early with a defender in the vicinity but it was the kind of play that Giants fans have seen Beckham turn into scoring plays in the past.
“He always looks good,” running back Wayne Gallman said of Beckham. “It’s crazy what he can do. I think it adds a big dimension.”
Tuesday showed the Giants what Beckham can bring to them this season.
“He’s a really dynamic player and one of the best receivers in the league, so obviously having him out there making big plays especially in crucial moments like the two-minute drill, it’s good to have,” tight end Evan Engram said. “In a game, that would have been a bigger gain that it was.”
There was some uncertainty as to how much Beckham would do in these joint practices. He did not play in last week’s preseason game against the Browns and Shurmur has used the word “smart” to repeatedly describe his plan for Beckham’s participation level in both practices at home and here.
On Tuesday, the “smart” barrier seemed to be broken and Beckham was unleashed.