Vacchiano: Hard to see Josh Norman stopping Odell Beckham

By on December 18, 2015
Ralph Vacchiano

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Thursday, December 17, 2015, 7:56 PM

While Josh Norman is a top-tier NFL cornerback, he's got his work cut out for him against Odell Beckham.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While Josh Norman is a top-tier NFL cornerback, he’s got his work cut out for him against Odell Beckham.

Josh Norman has done a wonderful job shutting down some of the best receivers in the NFL this season. He has staked his claim to being the NFL’s best cornerback, and maybe one of the best defenders in the league.

But the idea that he’s the toughest test yet for Odell Beckham, or the man who can finally slow or shut him down, is nothing more than an interesting storyline heading into the Giants’ game against the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Sunday. It’s not likely to happen. It’s not based in reality.

Norman is having a terrific season. But at this point, what makes anyone think that Beckham can be stopped?

Four days ago, Beckham shook off a nasty flu bug that forced him to take three IV bags of fluid — two in the middle of the game — and he still torched the Miami Dolphins for seven catches, 166 yards and two touchdowns. He’s got 85 catches for 1,320 yards and 12 touchdowns in a season in which everybody on the planet knows he’s Eli Manning’s only reliable target.

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The Giants certainly don’t think Beckham can be stopped – certainly not all game, by one corner, in one-on-one coverage — though they certainly chose their words carefully when asked about Beckham’s chances in this Battle Royale.

“Well, that’s another one of those questions,” Tom Coughlin said. “We’ll see what happens. You’re going to have a very, very good defender against a very, very good receiver.”

“We’re going to play our game. We’re not going to shy away from anybody,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo added. “We’ll pick our spots at times, but we’re not going to back down from any challenges.”

That was McAdoo’s way of saying they won’t over-scheme to get Beckham free of Norman, even if the Panthers – as they have most of the season – lock Norman in on the Giants’ top guy. The one way to thwart that plan would be to run Beckham out of the slot, where Norman rarely ventures. And he will be there at times, but not more than usual. The Giants don’t seem interested in altering anything they do.

At this point no NFL team has discovered the formula to completely shut down Odell Beckham.Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

At this point no NFL team has discovered the formula to completely shut down Odell Beckham.

And why would they, where Beckham is concerned? Except for the four plays he missed on Monday night when he was getting those two halftime IV bags, Beckham hasn’t even been slowed by anyone or anything in the last two months. His last mortal game was a four-catch, 35-yard snoozer in a win over the Cowboys on Oct. 25 when the Giants played a remarkably balanced football game and Manning only threw the ball 24 times.

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Since then, Beckham has reeled off six straight 100-yards games – a stretch in which he’s averaged more than seven catches, 132 yards and a touchdown per game. In the last three, his yards-per-game jumps to a ridiculous 152.3.

He’s had eight 100-yard games this season to go with the seven he had in 12 games last year. That’s 15 in 25 games. He’s 23 years old and his average game in his career is 7-105-1. Cam Newton called him “an animal.” Ron Rivera compared him to Jerry Rice.

Dolphins coach Dan Campbell, on Monday night, said, “We did a lot of things to try to stop him, to take him out. It really didn’t stop him.”

Nothing ever does.

“I think he’s a special talent in this league,” Norman said on The Rich Eisen Show. “I think the stuff he’s able to do, he is very, very much skillful in what he brings to the table. He plays in a big city, and he gives ’em what they want. He gives the crowd what they want.

He’s been flourishing there.

“So I have nothing but all nice and positive things to say and we’ll see what that looks like on Sunday.”

Norman, a 28-year-old who is blossoming in his fourth season out of Coastal Carolina, is certainly a capable cornerback. And he’s proven that by shutting down some of the NFL’s best receivers. Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins had only five catches for 53 yards with Norman shadowing throughout their Week 2 matchup. And he limited Indianapolis’ T.Y . Hilton to one 15-yard catch in Week 8 and Dallas’ Dez Bryant to two catches for 26 yards in Week 12.

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But Beckham, the way he’s playing, is on another level. Maybe the best comparison is Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who leads the NFL with 109 catches for 1,426 yards. Last Sunday, with Norman shadowing him in a 38-0 Panthers win, Jones did manage seven catches for 88 yards. That was a decent, but not great, game for Jones. It would be the same for Beckham, too.

It’s safe to say, though, that the Giants and Beckham are expecting more – even if Beckham downplayed the storyline, as he usually does.

“As far I’m concerned the Giants play the Panthers,” he said. “There are 11 other players on the field and everybody has a one-on-one matchup. The goal is to win your matchup the most amount of times you can.”

How often do the Giants think he’ll win? They wouldn’t say. The most McAdoo would offer was, “We look forward to the matchup.”

He surely does, because with Beckham, he’s armed with the better player. And he knows that no one has been able to stop him yet.

Tags:
new york giants ,
carolina panthers ,
nfl ,
josh norman ,
odell beckham jr.
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