The biggest story heading into the New York Giants season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars was the matchup between wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Both are elite talents at their respective positions, and both are players who have captured the attention of social media the past few seasons with their antics both on and off the field. We were in for a legendary battle.
If you count plays that ended in penalties and remove plays where the receiver was a clear decoy for a shorter pass underneath, then the two ran a total of 23 routes against each other. Beckham was targeted 11 times, and if you include a 15-yard pass interference call that he drew then he totaled 8 catches for 101 yards against Ramsey. If you condense quarterback Eli Manning’s entire game to just passes to Beckham then he had an adjusted passer rating of 100.9.
While that number looks great at face value, Ramsey seemed to have the upper hand for much of the day. Beckham didn’t really get going until very late in the game when the Jaguars dropped into a softer prevent defense.
Ramsey obviously studied his opponent this summer. Beckham excels at forcing defenders to play him close inside, as he has the ability to torch teams on quick slant routes. He then uses his speed and great route running to punish defenses by beating them over the top. Ramsey knew of this and played him well. He never got over eager jumping the shorter routes, and instead positioned himself in a place where he could cut down Beckham before he could run at all after the catch.
The cornerback also had the advantage on intermediate routes. Ramsey is a freak of an athlete and he is incredibly fast for a corner. He played the game knowing that as fast as Beckham could break on his routes and take advantage of the space that Ramsey gave him the corner was fast and agile enough to get right back in position. The receiver could barely find any space on medium route’s over the middle and was rarely even targeted.
Beckham did get the better of his opponent on deeper routes, though. Once he was able to get outside of the mess in the middle of the field the receiver took advantage of all the open field deep. Ramsey couldn’t play as conservatively as he did further up the field as Beckham had so much space to beat him with.
This play late in the game is a perfect example.
The Jaguars are in a cover-3 look and Ramsey is playing off coverage across from Beckham. The receiver quickly eats up the seven-yard cushion he is given and once he is deep downfield he fakes inside as if he is going to break into a post route and Ramsey follows him. Beckham quickly flips his hips and breaks outside for a deep out. Ramsey gets all the way turned around and by the time he can recover Beckham already has a deep catch for a huge gain.
Beckham should have had a touchdown on this play after he beat Ramsey in the redzone.
Ramsey gives Beckham inside leverage as they line up in the slot. Beckham runs a post route but fakes a step outside before he breaks inside. Ramsey bites on the step outside and the receiver has a free run into the end zone. Manning throws a pass while under duress and overshoots what should have been a touchdown.
The Giants also found a few creative ways to get Beckham open downfield.
On this play, Ramsey leaves a large cushion for Beckham. Sterling Shepard is lined up outside against AJ Bouye in man coverage as well. Shepard and Bouye jam each other and battle as they run downfield. Beckham delays his route until the two crash into Ramsey then gets a free run to the sideline for a deep completion. I’m not sure whether or not a play like this is theoretically allowed, but it’s easy to see how the referees would see Shepard and Bouye mutually fighting each other and not call it pass interference.
It is hard to declare a winner in a matchup like this. Ramsey had the advantage on the shorter routes and Beckham on the longer ones. Beckham’s stat line looks nice at the end of the game, but Ramsey and the Jaguars walked off the field with a victory.
In the end, matchups like this are more of a victory for the entire sport of football.
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