The only commonality between all answers? There isn’t just one answer. Big Blue’s all-world wideout does, well…
“Everything,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “He can run routes, he’s quick off the ball, he’s explosive, he can go up and get the ball with one hand or two; whether he’s covered or not.
“He can catch himself open, which is rare. Most receivers can’t do that.”
This coming Sunday, it will fall on the Jets to figure out a way to do what few teams have this season: Slow down Beckham. If there’s anything that’s been determined in his 1.5 years in the league, it’s that the LSU product can’t necessarily be stopped, but contained is what most defenses hope to accomplish.
Since being selected with the 12th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Beckham has pulled in 163 passes for 2,310 yards and 21 touchdowns in just 23 games. He’s at the center of the Giants offense, having been targeted an average of seven times each week in his career, and 11 times each game this season.
This season, Beckham has already caught 72 passes for 1,005 yards and nine scores. His yardage total is second-highest in the NFC.
While Beckham does work himself open more times than not, it’s a fairly regular occurrence that the Giants just throw it up to him to see what happens. And when that happens, Beckham is usually the one that comes down with it.
“He likes to go and attack the ball,” Walls said. “Regardless of where it’s thrown, he’s gonna go and get it. That’s his greatest attribute as a player. For us, it’s about attacking the ball and going up first. Pulling his hands away.”
With the Jets presently locked in a three-team tie for one of the two final AFC Wild Card spots, the team is well aware how much Sunday’s game means. While the game itself against a team from the opposite conference isn’t huge, with only five games remaining, there aren’t many more losses Gang Green can afford to take.
So if the Jets want to come out on the winning side of Sunday’s “Snoopy Bowl,” nicknamed for the fact both New York teams play at MetLife Stadium, the defense is going to need to contain Beckham.
The issue? They’ll have to figure out a way to do that without arguably their best defensive player.
Stuck in the “concussion protocol,” cornerback Darrelle Revis hasn’t done much in practice this week, and Bowles didn’t seem very optimistic he’d be cleared by Sunday. On Wednesday, the first-year coach said his all-pro corner was “getting better” each day, but hadn’t yet been cleared to attend meetings. With fellow corner Marcus Williams also banged up, the Jets are going in shorthanded at the one position they can’t afford to be shorthanded at.
No Revis? No Williams? That means Beckham could be lining up across from Walls, or former first-round pick Dee Milliner, quite a bit this weekend.
And both Walls and Milliner feel they’re ready if that situation comes to fruition.
While the Jets don’t have a player with the exact build of Beckham, they do have a solid group of wideouts that the defense sees each day in practice. There’s Eric Decker, who has more touchdowns than any AFC wideout since 2010. There’s Brandon Marshall, who this season has already caught 71 passes for 931 yards and nine touchdowns.
Those are guys the Jets see every day. Players who each day have helped the secondary get better.
“I think we have so much depth that we push each other going up against those guys,” Walls said. “It’s a challenge in and of itself.”
While the Jets haven’t seen Beckham in a regular season game yet, they have faced their fair share of elite-level wideouts. The Houston Texans DeAndre Hopkins had his go against the unit; as did the Bills Sammy Watkins, the Jaguars Allen Robinson, the Dolphins Jarvis Landry, Oakland’s Amari Cooper… the list goes on and on.
And truthfully, according to Pryor, the defense wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, for a unit that believes its the best in the league, the way to continually prove that is to come out and play big against the best of the best.
“We accept all challenges,” Pryor said with a smile.
This article will also appear in Saturday's edition of The Journal Inquirer