Few skill position players can change the outlook of a game as quickly and as immensely as can Odell Beckham Jr. But on Monday, the Eagles will look to do what only a handful of teams have been able to since the 22-year-old entered the league last season, slow him down.
As a rookie, the 5-11 wideout finished top 10 in the league in catches (91), receiving yards (1,305) and receiving touchdowns (12) despite missing the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury. In the Giants' regular season finale against the Eagles, Beckham was targeted 21 times, coming away with 12 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown. And through the first five games of this season, he's caught 31 balls on 52 targets for 428 yards and four touchdowns, doing so despite typically drawing the opposing team's best cover corner as well as ample safety help.
First-year Eagle Byron Maxwell knows well the impact Beckham can make. When his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, hosted the Giants in November of last year, the rookie wideout was coming off a breakout performance against the Colts in which he'd amassed 156 yards on eight catches during a nationally televised Monday Night Football game. Against the Seahawks, he once again broke the century mark, catching seven balls for 108 yards against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Beckham did most of that damage against Maxwell's teammate, Richard Sherman, but the fifth-year corner was left with distinct memories of the star wideout's impressive performance.
"He's explosive. He's a freak athlete," Maxwell said. "He's just a good football player, man. He does a lot of things well, and he has great ball skills. His run after the catch is good. ... He's looking at potentially a Hall of Fame career."
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis indicated that he'll use a committee of cornerbacks to cover Beckham, instead of having one cornerback shadow him throughout the game. When the star receiver lines up on the side opposite Maxwell, it will primarily be Nolan Carroll's job to keep him in check.
"We tweaked a few things in our coverages. We just have to know where he is at all times, and we just go from there," said Carroll. "His routes are pretty good. He's just an athlete out there when he's playing. You can see it on film. You can see it when you watch on TV. You see the highlights. He's just good."
Safety Walter Thurmond was Beckham's teammate last season as a member of the Giants' secondary. On Monday night, Maxwell and Carroll will be relying upon he and Malcolm Jenkins to provide help over the top. Thurmond watched firsthand as the flashy receiver tore through opposing defenses last season. While the goal is to keep Beckham in check, he knows that the Giants will do everything in their power to get him the ball early and often.
"He's probably averaging anywhere from 15 to 20 balls thrown his way a game. That's ridiculous when you put it in the spectrum where some teams don't even throw the ball 20 times," he said. "He's getting a lot of opportunities, so even if he catches 50 percent of those passes that's 10 catches a game. And if it's 10-yard catches, that's 100 yards a game.
"I don't think it's a situation of guys struggling to guard him. It's just like giving the running back 30 balls to carry a game. Eventually, something is going to happen. ... You really have to limit those opportunities (downfield) and really frustrate him and try to get him out of his game."
It's possible, though, that the Eagles won't have to worry about the Pro Bowl receiver at all. Beckham injured his hamstring late in Sunday's 30-27 win over the 49ers. Head coach Chip Kelly is certain Beckham will suit up on Monday night, but the receiver is officially questionable after not practicing all week.