Odell Beckham Jr. is a truly spectacular player, capable of things most NFL players can't do. If you had to pick a player to be, say, one-third of your passing offense, you could certainly do much worse than to pick Beckham.
But it wasn't supposed to be this way for the New York Giants, remember? The idea in the offseason and all throughout training camp was that this year's Giants offense would be diverse, loaded with playmakers. They'd dare other teams to double Beckham, because they'd have such alternative playmakers as Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz, Larry Donnell, Shane Vereen ... the mind boggled at the possibilities for offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Hasn't worked out that way. Cruz never made it back. Donnell was hurt in the summer, didn't really do the developing they'd hoped he'd do, and is hurt again. Randle has persisted with the frustrating languor that has so far characterized his career. Vereen helps sometimes, but the run game is such a non-entity that you can't really view him as a big-time option.
Only Beckham has delivered on preseason expectations, and as a result the Giants' offense relies on him to an ever-increasing extent.
For the season, Beckham has accounted for 28 percent of Eli Manning's passing game targets, 33 percent of Manning's passing yards and 26 percent of the team's receptions. Big numbers, but they're even bigger recently.
Over the Giants' past three games, Beckham has accounted for 35 percent of Manning's targets, 39 percent of his passing yards and 29 percent of the team's receptions.
"You want the ball in the hands of the guys who can be the most productive," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "We've had other people that are open, though sometimes not in the timeliest fashion as you'd like. But there's plenty of opportunities for people to get open. I mean, I would think [Sunday], the ball to Vereen, he was open, and he tips it up in the air and it becomes an interception. The Harris ball, I don't think so. You throw that one away. And then we talked about the goal line -- the green-zone interception. I would say there's guys contributing and getting open, but you certainly do want the ball in the hands of the guy that can be the most productive."
Which is Beckham, obviously, and no one would dispute that. But as brilliant as the second-year superstar is, the Giants' offense isn't going to hum the way they want it to hum with any consistency unless the other options are at least reliable and preferably dynamic. No one has stepped forward to deliver that this year, which is to the Giants' significant disappointment. And you do wonder whether it affects their offseason priority list.
No matter how this season plays out for the Giants, who are somewhat astoundingly tied for first place at 5-6 with five games to go, they're going to need to address the defense in the offseason. They'll need to find a free safety, at least one pass-rusher, a cornerback (either their own free agent, Prince Amukamara, or someone else's) and a middle linebacker. That's a lot of major needs, even for a team that projects to have something like $50 million in salary-cap room. But with Randle headed for free agency, Cruz no sure thing to ever come back from last year's knee injury and major question marks still at tight end, it's possible they'll have to commit some of that cap room to offense as well.
Beckham is a special talent -- the kind who can carry an offense for a game here and a game there if need be. But long-term, things will go a lot better for the Giants on offense if they can get him some help. Right now, he doesn't have much.