Three Reasons Why Odell Beckham Jr. Will Regress In 2015
The man, the myth, the legend.
Odell Beckham Jr. shattered all expectations last year after posting 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games, earning him a Pro Bowl spot and the Associated Press's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His miraculous catch (shown below) against the Cowboys led to his jersey being hung in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Beckham has been lauded for having the second-best rookie season in the Super Bowl era and some have gone as far as to claim he is the 32nd best player in the NFL. These accomplishments helped make Beckham a young celebrity, including encounters with sports stars LeBron James and David Beckham, the honor of being selected as the cover of EA Sports' "Madden NFL 16" video game and sponsors ranging from Nike to Trojan Condoms.
Beckham is facing great expectations going into the 2015 season, with many believing the sophomore wide receiver will exceed his level play of last year by playing a full season. However, others believe Beckham will suffer through a "sophomore slump" after facing such early success. Let's take a look at a few of the reasons some people aren't buying the hype:
The History of Rookie WR's with 1,000 Receiving Yards
Beckham joined the exclusive group of rookie wide receivers achieving 1,000 yards, a group that includes the likes of Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin. Players who are a part of this group can often expect to have long, productive careers in the NFL, with only a few becoming busts. However, many of these receivers experienced a minor slump in their second year. Sports research engine PointAfter plotted the follow-up seasons of the 12 other receivers to debut with 1,000-yard campaigns on the graphic below:
Of the twelve receivers, only four (Randy Moss, A.J. Green, Marques Colston and John Jefferson) managed to gain more yards in their second season. Part of this decline can be explained by the injury bug affecting these receivers: eight of the receivers combined to miss a total of 33 games in their second year.
A possible reason for this could be that second year players are still adjusting to the physicality of the game. Wide receivers are usually not as injury-prone as other positions, such as running back and offensive linemen,who experience hard contact every play. However, these receivers are still adjusting from a 12-game schedule to a 16-game schedule and are playing against bigger, faster and stronger defensive backs than they did in college.
Beckham started only 11 games in 2014, and with a hamstring injury currently limiting his ability to practice, it is reasonable to be concerned whether Beckham will be able to take part in training camp and the preseason come August.
The Hamstring Injury
In late May, Beckham felt a slight twinge in his right hamstring while running sprints. As a precautionary measure, the New York Giants decided to rest the receiver during mini camp in order to let him focus on healing his hamstring. It felt like déjà vu for Beckham, who experienced a similar hamstring injury last year which forced him to miss training camp, the preseason and the first four games of the 2014 season.
Hamstring injuries are tricky for players, as hamstrings are responsible for providing much of the power and hip extension one experiences while sprinting. Hamstring injuries are often hard to treat, and overzealous players who take to the field too soon can expect a re-injury rate of up to 50 percent.
As frustrating as he has described it, waiting patiently seems to be Beckham's best option to return to playing with the team. When asked if the wide receiver would be ready for training camp starting on Jul. 30, the Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin, stated that "He just continues with whatever the plan is for them in the training room. He's been running, but most of it's been straight ahead. He'll maneuver into the cutting and so on and so forth. He feels better, but he needs to feel a whole lot better."
The Return of Victor Cruz
Coming into the 2014 season, Victor Cruz was expected to be the Giants' No. 1 wide receiver, easing Eli Manning into the
West Coast offense implemented by new offensive coordinator Ben Mcadoo and mentoring young receivers Rueben Randle and Beckham. But after going down in Week 6 with a knee injury, Cruz left a void at the receiver position. Beckham filled that role well, averaging 8.5 targets and 123.3 yards per game in the 10 games after Cruz was injured.
Cruz has been reported to be recovering well from his injury and is expected to be ready to go when training camp starts on Jul. 30. The same cannot be said for Beckham, whose situation is still up in the air with the Giants coaching staff.
Cruz's return most likely means reduced targets for Beckham. All four wide receivers who exceeded their 1,000 yard rookie performance experienced an increase in targets in their sophomore year. Ben Mcadoo's West Coast offense prioritizes route running in wide receivers, an area of the game both Cruz and Beckham excel at. The West Coast Offense typically distributes targets evenly among receivers, prioritizing efficient short passes over creating mismatches. This, along with the quiet emergence of Rueben Randle towards the end of last year, gives reason to believe Beckham will experience a drop in targets, and as a result, a drop in production.
Odell Beckham Jr. faces great expectations going into 2015. At only 22 years old, he is already being heralded as one of the best players in the game. However, expectations of him maintaining his level of play are unrealistic for the upcoming season because of the amazing level he was at in 2014, injury concerns and a probable decrease in targets. But if he manages to post another excellent season, it wouldn't be the first time he's shocked the NFL.