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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Baker Mayfield shows reason for optimism in NFL debut

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Mansur Shaheen

The Cleveland Browns selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft surprised some. The 2017 Heisman winner measures just over 6 feet tall and doesn’t have the stature of fellow rookie quarterbacks Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. He doesn’t have the athleticism of Lamar Jackson or the highly touted football IQ of Josh Rosen either. The one thing that the rookie does have that many believed separated him from the pack was his perceived “x-factor.” The Oklahoma product was the most creative and hard to defend player in college football last season.

It did not take long for Mayfield to bring that creativity to the NFL level. The quarterback completed 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns and overall played a very clean game with little mistakes. 

Cleveland handed the starting quarterback role to veteran Tyrod Taylor in their preseason opener against the New York Giants last week, and Mayfield played with the teams second offensive unit. This meant he was playing with a group of backup offensive linemen who were greatly outmatched by their competition.

Poor offensive line play led to him being under pressure on almost every drop back but the rookie was able to expertly navigate the pocket and effortlessly make plays.

Mayfield showed great pocket awareness and did a great job avoiding pressure while also keeping his eyes downfield. He avoided taking sacks but also wasn’t too overly eager to bail out of the pocket and run when he still had a chance to find an open receiver. His football instincts are off the charts and he very quickly got a feel for the NFL game.

While Mayfield was good at throwing out of a shifting pocket he also did a great job knowing when he had to tuck the ball and run it himself.

On both of those plays, Mayfield knew exactly how many yards he needed to convert the first down. He was put under pressure and kept his eyes downfield when he needed to. When he spotted an opportunity to take off and run he did so, getting just enough for the first down and safely getting out of bounds. His field awareness is amazing and it’s rare that a rookie looks this comfortable in his first game.


Baker Mayfield’s pre-draft scouting report


Mayfield made impressive plays from a clean pocket as well. His ball placement when throwing downfield was great. He knew when to throw back shoulder and he knew when to throw a pass that his receiver had a chance to high point. The Giants backup secondary had a pretty good day in coverage, but Mayfield was still able to pick them apart.

The quarterback wasn’t perfect but he was one of the most impressive rookies of the opening week of NFL preseason. Browns fans will know not to get ahead of themselves, though, as 2017 second round selection DeShone Kizer impressed in his preseason debut last season as well. For now, there is good reason to be excited for Mayfield and he looks as if he has a chance to finally end Cleveland’s desperate search for talent at the sports most valuable position. 

 

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How Odell Beckham tore the Ravens apart in week 6

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

No matter what you think about his antics both on and off the field, everyone must admit that Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most exciting players to watch in the past decade. He is a skilled receiver who truly loves the game. Beckham is an excellent route runner, and his speed and agility make him a match up nightmare for nearly every team in the league.

Beckham played his first 16 game season in 2016, and set a career high with 101 receptions. He broke the 1,300 yards yet again, something he has done every season in the league, and added ten touchdowns.

He had yet another amazing season leading to his first ever playoff appearance, and had the best game of his career so far in week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Beckham was targeted by Eli Manning ten times for eight receptions and a career high 222 yards. He became the first Giants receiver to break 200 yards since Plaxico Burress in 2005, and became the youngest player to reach the mark in Giants history. The 222 yards were also the second most by a Giants receiver ever.

He put up these numbers despite missing much of the second quarter with a rib injury, and being largely held in check for majority of the first half.

The Giants top receiver only had one reception in the first quarter, and it was his lowest moment of the game.

Beckham ran a quick curl route and embedded himself into a hole in the Ravens zone. He quickly whips around and catches an instantly thrown ball from Eli Manning. Beckham secures the catch, but loses possession of it as he s tackled by Eric Weddle from behind.

Beckham was a little loose with the ball, and he seemed absolutely blindsided by the tackle.

He was entirely unaware a tackle was coming from that side, and shifted the ball into that arm allowing Weddle to swipe in and knock it out. The Ravens recovered the fumble and the Giants offense got off to a horrible start.

New York could not get anything going in the early stages of the game. It took them until the second quarter to even get a first down and they dug themselves an early 10-0 hole on the scoreboard.

The offense finally got going in the second quarter, and Beckham got his second first half reception.

Ravens corner Jimmy Smith gives Beckham a huge cushion split out wide. A quick curl route earns him an easy six yard catch to get the Giants drive rolling. The Ravens can be criticized for making it so easy Beckham to make a catch underneath, but it’s a price you have to pay when facing a receiver as fast and as great of a route runner as Beckham.

Beckham was finally given a chance to shine late in the first half.

Beckham manages to slip behind the Ravens zone coverage and find a bit of space in the gap. He has a split second of time embedded between the Ravens corner and safety, and Eli throws him the ball. It is a little high, but Beckham manages to come down with it despite being hit from two sides by the oncoming defenders. He comes down out of bounds though, and ends the first half with a measly eleven yards.

Beckham exploded in the second half, and a Ravens defense that seemingly had removed the Giants biggest threat from the game fell apart. Jimmy Smith did not play in the second half due to a concussion. Smith did not entirely lock down Beckham at the early stages of the game, but the Ravens best corner back leaving the game left the receiver a lot more room to operate on the field.

The Giants got Beckham going early with a quick pass out to the flat, and he embarrassed a few defenders for an easy eleven yard gain.

Manning almost instantly sends it over to Beckham after the snap. A quick hesitation gets the first would-be tackler off balance and Beckham throws him into the ground. He uses a stiff arm to deal with another defender before being run out of bounds.

The Giants would eventually lead this drive into the red zone, where Beckham would have a few opportunities to score.

Lined up split wide only a few yards away from the end zone, Beckham ran a quick dig route. As Manning roll towards his right Beckham quickly plants his foot and turns back towards the sideline. His agility makes him near impossible to keep up with in such close quarters and he easily shakes the defensive back.

Will Davis, the corner unfortunately tasked with covering Beckham, makes a business decision and yanks on Beckham holding him back instead of letting him run free. He gets called for pass interference and the Giants get a first down.

On the very next play Beckham beat his man again and found himself open in the end zone.

Beckham runs a simple out route towards the left sideline. He has a step on his man the whole way, and is open towards the sideline. The corner does a good job sticking with him and cutting off Manning’s passing angle. Manning could have done a little better with the pass to allow his freak of an athlete receiver, but throws it high out of bounds.

Yet again though, Beckhams route running gave a defensive back a lot of trouble. Weddle was lined up across Beckham, and even left a bit of a cushion while also lining up to the outside to cover himself on an out route. Beckham half turns towards the inside after jogging a few yards into the end zone, and instantly breaks to the side line. Weddle is thrown off by the double move, and loses his man. As a safety, man coverage is not the best part of Weddles skill set. He was completely beaten though, and Manning bailed him out.

Manning bailed the Ravens out again in the ultimate fashion on the next drive. Davis was lined up across Beckham and found himself lost on a double move.

Davis did not leave much of a cushion for Beckham. The receiver runs a few yards upfield then makes a hard cut back towards the quarterback. Davis is thrown off and stumbles back for a few yards leaving his man wide open.

Manning goes to the other side of the field, though, and throws an interception. The Ravens got away with it, but plays like this force Baltimore to give Beckham even a bigger cushion in the future.

Later in the quarter Beckham was given a bigger cushion by Davis, and absolutely torched him anyways for his longest touchdown of the year.

Davis is playing seven yards off of the line of scrimmage, in perfect position to defend any curl or dig routes from Beckham. The receiver runs right up to Davis and makes a quick turn, faking a dig route. Davis bites on the shorter route.

Beckham breaks towards the sideline and the defensive back is beaten. Weddle, the deepest safety for the Giants, is distracted by the other side of the field not expecting anything to come deep on his left. Beckham has a step on Davis and without any support deep it’s just a matter of Manning placing the ball correctly.

A near perfect pass from Manning, and a cocky finger wave towards Weddle are all that are needed as Beckham jogs into the end zone to break open the game for the Giants.

Beckham finishes off with an amazing double jump celebration…

Followed by some weird stuff with a kicking net.

He forced the Ravens to give him even more space in the future. Allowing Beckham a large cushion lets him put his route running skills to full use.

This time opposite of Shareece Wright, Beckham is given a cushion of nearly ten yards. He runs a corner route, and a nice move towards the inside before breaking off on his route sends Wright towards the inside.

Beckham runs free down the sideline, and if the safety does not show to force him out of bounds he is off for another touchdown.

Just like the previous play, Eli Manning also delivered a perfect pass to Beckham. He drops it right into his hands.

His final catch of the game, and the one that led us off, was his most important. Beckham beat the entire Ravens defense and sprinted to a 75 yard game winning touchdown.

Baltimore led by three with under two minutes to play. The Giants were lining up for a fourth and one play from their own 34. A stop for the Ravens here would most likely win them the game.

They stacked the box playing man coverage on each receiver, with one safety lined up deep. The Giants run a simple slant-flat combo with Larry Donnel and Beckham. The two defenders get their legs tied together and go down, springing Beckham free.

Lardarius Webb is the only man still in front of Beckham, but still has a lot of room to close. As Beckham reaches midfield he changes direction, forcing Webb to come to a complete stop to turn and chase. Beckham beats everyone down field for a touchdown (despite an incredible effort from the Ravens #41 Anthony Levine).

He then proceeds to do more weird stuff with the net.

The Giants defense would hold on for the win, and the Giants would slip away with an important victory. Beckham proved once again how dangerous he can be as a wideout once he gets going, and how hard it is to shut him out of a game.

 

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The Vikings and Their Unbeatable Pass Rush

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Minnesota Vikings defense has led them to a 4-0 start this season, yet they are still somehow underrated by many. When people hear about the Vikings they usually think about Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater, who are both currently out injured, and forget about the amazing defense they have put together. A defense so good they frustrated Odell Beckham Jr. to the point where he said he no longer finds the sport of football fun anymore. A defense so good, they may lead the Vikings all the way to the Super Bowl despite losing their quarterback before the season even began.

The Vikings defense does not have any real “super star” players. No one as dominant single-handedly as Von Miller or JJ Watt, and the closest thing they have to a star is safety Harrison Smith.

So how is this defense so good? They work together as a unit and manage to disrupt almost every play an opposing offense runs.

Despite not getting a single sack in their match up against the New York Giants, their defensive front managed to be dominant off of the stat sheet. They tore apart the Giants offensive line, which is ranked in the top five overall by Pro Football Focus and in pass protection by Football Outsiders, and in doing so made it near impossible for Eli Manning to have enough time to truly let anything develop downfield.

The Giants were forced to rely on their running backs and Tight End Will Tye for production through the air, as Manning had limited time on the pocket forcing him to dump it off short early and often.

Player Targets Receptions Yards TDs
Victor Cruz 9 5 50 0
Odell Beckham 9 3 23 0
Sterling Shepard 7 4 30 0
Paul Perkins 3 2 72 0
Bobby Rainey 9 7 43 0
Will Tye 6 4 43 0

 

Beckham, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard had a combined 25 targets, but only 12 receptions between them for just over 100 yards, or about 4 yards per target and only 8 and a half yards per reception.

That’s because many of their targets were like this pass here to Beckham in the fourth quarter

The receptions by the three did have were mainly short passes over the middle or into the flat for minimal gain. Paul Perkins turned out to be the team’s leading receiver, but that is only because of a 67 yard gain on a screen pass.

Looking at these numbers alone, majority of the credit for the teams win would be given to the secondary, but the film tells another story. Although, the secondary played a great game, the collective pass rush of the Vikings front seven, with occasional help from the safety’s ruined any chance for the Giants to have success through the air.

Late in the second quarter with the Giants driving down field, the Vikings pass rush showed their prowess and creativity to bust a play within seconds.

The Vikings rushed their four down lineman, but Harrison Smith (#22) showed a late blitz off the edge, and the Giants did not adjust. Instead of staying back to block the oncoming rush, Running Back Bobby Rainey (#43) allowed Smith a free run at Manning, forcing him to throw the ball into the ground to avoid the sack. Even if Smith was not gifted a free run, the Vikings Brian Robinson (#96) had beaten Bobby Hart (#68) and would have gotten to Manning within seconds. The ability to rush Smith safely is result of coordination between the Vikings linebackers as well. Anthony Barr (#55) quickly shifted to his right covering the area Smith vacated, while Eric Kendricks (#54) slid into the middle to play zone over the middle, putting himself in position to make a play on the two Giants receivers over the middle.

Eli Manning’s lone interception of the game came on a creative blitz scheme by the Vikings early in the third quarter.

The Vikings lined up 7 players on the line before the snap, including defensive back Harrison Smith. They overloaded the right side of the line, sending four. On the left, though, both Kendricks and Everson Griffen (#97) drop back into coverage. As they drop back they take the spot of Captain Munnerlyn (#24) who shows a late blitz and easily beats the much slower Ereck Flowers (#74) around the edge and nearly gets to Manning. The quarterback panics and heavily overthrows Odell Beckham (#13) deep and Xavier Rhodes (#29) comes up with an easy interception.

With the Giants driving down field trying to tie the game in the fourth quarter, the Vikings pass rush came up big again on fourth down.

The defense lined up six men on the line of scrimmage, but only rushed five. The Giants were in a zone blocking scheme, and when Eric Kendricks drops back into coverage, Center Weston Richburg (#70) is caught out of position allowing Barr to blow by him. Barr bursts through Paul Perkins (#28) and manages to get a hand on Manning’s pass as he closed down on him.

The fluidity and coordination of the Vikings defensive front throughout the game is a testament to the genius of defensive coordinator George Edwards. Every player knows their particular assignment both before and after the snap, and follows it to a tee. Rarely is anyone out of position, and on both the defensive front and secondary it is nearly impossible to find a weakness to exploit.

Eli Manning would have had his second interception of the game later on, if not for a drop by Kendricks.

Four Vikings blitzed on the play, while Kendricks and Barr dropped back into coverage. The two rushers off the edge, Griffen and Danielle Hunter (#99), collapsed towards the inside, while the two interior linemen, Brian Robinson and Tom Johnson (#92) ran a stunt towards the edge. This frees up both of the interior linemen, and Robinson manages to reach Manning. Manning manages to again avoid a sack, but it nearly costs his team possession as Eric Kendricks jumps an ill thrown pass towards Will Tye (#45).

Manning only completed 25 of his 45 pass attempts on Monday, and many of his completions were short dump offs to receivers. The Giants only converted 2 of 12 third downs the entire game, and their offense could not get anything going downfield all game despite having one of the NFL’s best group of receivers.

The Vikings defense has been outstanding this season, and now with the team at 4-0 they look near impossible to beat. They are performing well as a unit, and every player seems to know their role. Their play, along with new quarterback Sam Bradford having a surprisingly impressive year so far has the Vikings right back in the Super Bowl discussion, and maybe even the front-runner to be the NFC’s representative.

 

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