Odell Beckham Jr. vs Jalen Ramsey; Breaking down the key match up

Film Room, Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

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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Jalen Ramsey was the highest rated player in the 2016 draft class. Some draft boards had him as high as the top pick in the draft during the weeks preceding the draft. He was chosen fifth overall by the Jaguars, and was the third non-quarterback selected behind the Ohio State duo Ezekiel Elliot and Joey Bosa.

A good shut down corner can be a game changer in the NFL. The ability to shut down an entire side of the field, or island a team’s top receiver, can render a passing attack near useless. Recent contracts given to the likes of Josh Norman and Darius Slay last offseason prove that teams around the league are valuing the position even more.

So on a struggling Jaguars team, Ramsey smashing through the “rookie wall” in his first year can prove to be huge for the team’s future.

Ramsey was the Jaguars CB1 this year, and saw a lot of time matched up against some of the better receivers in the league. Despite his inexperience, he matched up well with the likes of Emanuel Sanders, Steve Smith and Deandre Hopkins.

What made Ramsey so good? His raw strength and athleticism.

The rookie first caught the attention of the league during a chippy game against the Baltimore Ravens, the team he would most likely have been drafted by if the Jaguars did not take him. He and Ravens receiver Steve Smith had heated words for each other during post game interviews, but his on field play also deserves attention.

Late in the game Jalen Ramsey created a huge interception for a teammate.

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Ramsey drops back into zone coverage initially, then trails Dennis Pitta (#88) as he passes through his zone. Flacco throws an awful pass way behind Pitta. Ramsey quickly closes down and makes a huge leap to tip the ball towards Tashaun Gipson for a pick.

From this angle you can see just how amazing of a play Ramsey makes to tip that ball. He shows off his speed and athleticism just by chasing down the pass to make a play, but even more important is his field vision and ability to be in the right place at the right time. He realized he was in a dead zone, and followed Pitta deeper down the field, and was fortunate enough to have the chance to take advantage of a bad pass.

He showed off his closing speed early on during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos.

Receiver Emanuel Sanders (#10) manages to slip through the Jaguars cover 3 zone coverage, and manages to get behind the defense when Jags Safety Johnathon Cyprien (#37) begins to tread forward towards Demarius Thomas (#88).

Ramsey comes from the same zone he occupied on the play against the Ravens, and crosses the field to catch up to Sanders. Broncos QB Paxton Lynch underthrows his target, allowing Ramsey nearly force an interception, but again Ramsey shows off his closing speed, play making ability and awareness of what is happening all over the field.

His speed and awareness give him the ability to cover multiple zones if needed, which is crucial for a team like the Jaguars who love playing in cover three.

During the first quarter against the Titans he nearly intercepts a pass meant for fellow rookie Tajae Sharp (#19).

Sharp starts the play lined up across Ramsey, but runs a crossing route out of his zone. Ramsey falls away for a second, but as the play breaks down and Titans QB Marcus Mariota escapes the pocket, Jaguars linebackers abandon their assignments to chase and cover shallower targets. Ramsey realizes this and sprints across the field. Mariota throws to Sharp, who was open for a few seconds, and Ramsey nearly comes up with an interception.

The overhead angle shows just how much ground Ramsey covered while the ball was in the air, and how close he came to taking it the other way.

Ramsey’s ability to read the field and overall closing speed also make him an asset on shallower passes as well.

On this play earlier during the Ravens game, Ramsey initially drops back into coverage before quickly making a play up field.

He instantly reads the out route coming out of the backfield, and sees Joe Flacco going that way. He breaks off his man and lays a mean hit on the Ravens back stopping the play for minimal gain.

Ramsey made a similar play against the Titans as well.

On this play, Ramsey begins to drop back into his regular zone for a cover three play, but see’s Kendall Wright (#13) run an out route into the flat. Ramsey rushes forward and manages to land a hard hit on Wright to knock the ball free for an incompletion.

Jalen Ramsey does not only make plays in zone coverage, though.

Week 15 saw Ramsey line up across the Texans Deandre Hopkins for much of the game. Hopkins is one of the NFLs better receivers, and this game proved to be one of Ramseys biggest tests.

Hopkins had a good day, catching 8 passes for 87 yards, but was targeted 17 times. That leads to total of only 5.12 yards per target for Hopkins, one of his lower totals on the year. Hopkins was shadowed by Ramsey for much of the game, and both were tested.

Ramsey gives Hopkins a big cushion to work with on this play, but again shows his closing speed and manages to force an incompletion on a shallow pass.

Before the snap Hopkins shifts from wide out into the slot. Ramsey shifts behind his fellow defender, and steps a few yards back. If not for an inaccurate pass from Brock Osweiler, Hopkins may have made the catch. Ramsey, though, managed to close in and lay a hit on him to send him flying out of bounds for an incompletion.

On a fourth and goal play earlier in the same game, Ramsey lined up right at the line of scrimmage across Hopkins.

They both begin to shove each other off the snap, and Hopkins runs a corner route into the end zone. The ball is not perfectly delivered, and Ramsey makes an athletic play to deflect the ball away, giving the ball back to the Jaguars.

Ramsey is still not a the perfect corner, he sometimes can get lost in between zones and many of the big plays that he does make happen to be against some of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks (Osweiler, Flacco, Lynch). He struggles sometimes in man coverage, but he can be trusted to secure his side of the field in a cover three look. When the Jaguars met the Cheifs this year he had quarterback Nick Foles (who belongs on the same list as the others) scared to even look his way, and was only targeted twice all game. He has the speed and athleticism to make plays on the ball, the strength to land hard hits on receivers to dislodge the ball and he has the ability to not only cover his own zone but to shift across field if he see’s a man about to run free.

After the combine we knew how athletic Ramsey was. He was among the top ranked prospects in every physical category which led to him flying up draft boards. His raw talent has translated well into the league so far, and as he get more used to the faster and more complex play in the NFL, he should only get better.

The Jaguars, despite consistently finding themselves towards the bottom of the NFL standings, have a very talented roster. They have a lot of young pieces who have showed individual flashes of talent but have been unable to find the consistency to put it all together. 2016 was supposed to be their break out season, and they ended up having one of the NFL’s worst records. They still show promise, though, and entering 2017 they yet again will find themselves as a dark horse to steal the AFC South. As players like Ramsey, Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and many others gain more experience as a group, the entire team should only get better.

 

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