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Odell Beckham Jr. poised for super sophomore season

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. grabs a pass against the New York Jets in the first half of their NFL preseason game in East Rutherford, N.J. on Aug. 29, 2015. Credit: Ray Stubblebine

Odell Beckham Jr. knows everyone wants an encore.

If you look at his stats from last year, when he played only 12 games, and project them over a 16-game season, that kind of production will be almost impossible to attain. We're talking about 121 catches, 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns. Even Beckham seemed floored by those extrapolations.

"Ha!" he chuckled when they were mentioned as the level at which many believe he could -- and maybe should -- be number-wise this season.

What he wants to do in his second NFL season has nothing to do with stats.

"I set the goals as high as I can," he said this past week before launching his sophomore campaign in Dallas. "If they fall short of the numbers from last year and we go 10-6 and we're in the playoffs, making a playoff run, I'm fine with that. At the end, I just want to be in the playoffs and be able to compete for what you come here to do: win championships. That's the end goal, being able to come out and win games, period."

It's why when Beckham remembers the biggest moment of his life so far -- that one-handed catch against the Cowboys last year that propelled him to instant fame -- it comes with a bit of a bitter taste. Beckham won the highlight battle that night, but Dallas won the game.

"At the end of the day, it was great to have the catch and everything, but we still lost the game," he said. "And we lost games after that . . . It would have made the moment a lot more special if we had won."

Beckham hasn't had that feeling in his brief NFL career. The Giants were 6-10 in his one year with the team.

The young receiver knows he's being counted upon as a major part of reversing that record, especially with Victor Cruz sidelined. There are other players on the field, but none to whom eyes and footballs are as drawn as they are to Beckham.

"Well, he's very important," Tom Coughlin said of Beckham in a rare concession to individual over team from the coach. "It's obvious, because of the big-play possibility he brings any time he touches the ball."

Coughlin quickly noted that Beckham's success will help others.

"You're going to have an awful lot of direction, in terms of the defense, what they are trying to do about defending him," he said. "That's going to give others a chance as well."

And Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said it's unwise to focus on one player alone.

"Odell is someone who certainly has played very well in his short time in the league," Garrett said. "But if you look at the rest of their receiving corps, their tight ends, their runners, obviously their quarterback, there's a lot of weapons there and they know how to use them . . . They can attack you in a lot of different ways."

None with more impact than Beckham. The Cowboys learned that last year. We all did. To the point that it seems as if every other question Beckham has been asked this preseason has started out with the phrase "after last season . . . "

As in how will he match it? How will he improve upon it? How will he handle defenses aiming to stop a repeat of it?

It's almost as if he is on such a different level that he's competing against himself.

"Honestly, I'm really just excited for this season to be able to finally start and get on track with this season and not so much what happened last year," he said. "Right now it doesn't even matter, it's a new season, new year, new everything. A clean slate."

Not quite. There is some lingering business to take care of. He ended 2014 on a streak of nine straight games with at least 90 receiving yards, tying the NFL record set by Michael Irvin. If he collects at least 90 Sunday nighit, he'll surpass The Playmaker . . . and do it against Irvin's former team.

That's not a rookie record. That's an all-time record.

Even last year, though, Beckham said he wasn't getting caught up in the gaudy numbers that continued to swell next to his name on the stat sheet.

"My goals [as a rookie] weren't so set on numbers, it was just kind of things," he said. "Things that I wanted to accomplish."

Such as being named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year (check) and being a Pro Bowler (check). And making the playoffs (a glaring unchecked).

"It's the same this year," he said. "You have to have goals for yourself before you can be able to help anybody else, otherwise you're out there [alone]. At the end of the day, it's 11 men out on the field at one time, but everybody has to do their job. Making sure you do your job to the best of your ability is the biggest thing."

If he can do his anywhere close to how he performed it last season, everyone else's will be made simpler. Then maybe Beckham will be able to achieve what he wants.

Unlike last year's disappointing debut.

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