The Giants are hoping that trading Odell Beckham to Cleveland this offseason will serve as addition by subtraction. If that’s going to happen, Pat Shurmur and company are going to need more than one pass catcher to really step up their respective games. In this piece, we’ll walk you through three guys who are capable of replacing a significant portion of Beckham’s production.
None of this changes the reality that the Giants will base their offensive attack around Saquon Barkley. He’s going to get a ton of touches in 2019. Some of his uptick in workload will come via the passing game. He won’t be included in this list since most of his work will come out of the backfield. Our focus will be on three receivers who are more capable of stretching opposing secondaries down the field.
1. Evan Engram
The former Ole Miss tight end struggled a little bit with injuries last season, but he was extremely productive when he was on the field. He’ll need to build on the 45 catches for 577 yards he gave the Giants in his second season as a pro.
Fortunately for fans in New York, he’s got the talent to do just that. Engram may not be the most physical blocker in football, but he is a weapon as a pass receiver. He possesses excellent speed for the tight end position and his long arms give him the ability to make tough catches down the field.
Expect him to get a lot of chances to run deep seam routes down the field off of play action. Engram, more than any other pass catcher on the roster, will be counted on to replicate the fear Beckham instilled in opposing safeties. If the Giants offense is going to operate at a high level in 2019, it will require Engram to play like a Pro Bowler.
2. Golden Tate
Tate is the obvious player who will be required to fill Beckham’s shoes since he’ll be his direct replacement in the starting lineup. Tate’s game is markedly different from Beckham’s, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a very productive season as his replacement.
Beckham is a wide receiver who likes to work deep routes down the field to make big plays. Tate, in sharp contrast, would prefer to work underneath routes that he can turn into big plays with his ability to run after the catch. The Giants will need him to turn short outs and crosses into long gains if they are going to forge a successful passing game. Tate may be overpaid, but he should put up relatively big numbers in this offense if he can stay healthy.
3. Sterling Shepard
Assuming that Shepard recovers fully from his current thumb ailment, he should slot in as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver. That should position him for plenty of targets.
Shepard is coming off the most productive season in his young career. Despite Eli Manning’s struggles last season, he still managed to rack up 66 catches for 872 yards. The former Oklahoma star will need to increase both totals if he wants to have a successful 2019 season.
The Giants really need Shepard to operate as a strong compliment to Tate. The pair will need to function like Co-No. 1 wideouts if this offense is going to really click. That may be too much to ask from Shepard on some weeks, but he can pull it off against weaker secondaries.
Can the trio really replace Beckham?
The short answer to this question is a resounding no. Engram can put up big numbers from the tight end position, but he’ll struggle to affect the game the way Beckham could from his flanker position.
Tate and Shepard are really going to struggle to make Eli Manning and/or Daniel Jones look good at quarterback. Both are relatively small wideouts who need precise throws. That’s not something either Manning or Jones look ready to deliver at this point in their respective careers.
Trading Beckham is one of many reasons why the Giants find themselves with such a low over/under for the 2019 win total. You can currently wager on New York at either 5.5 or 6 wins. Taking the over would represent a serious belief in this trio of pass catchers all enjoying career seasons. The chances of all three guys coming through given the lack of quarterback talent on the Giants roster are pretty remote. Shurmur and his coaching staff are going to miss Odell Beckham a ton in 2019.