The on-field scuffle between Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey on Sunday drew a lot of eyeballs. Not only because it involved Beckham, a veritable lightning rod for attention, but also because Humphrey appeared to choke OBJ out (though the Ravens are pushing back against that assertion).
I don’t care if it was or wasn’t a choke. I’m more interested in what led up to it, which was undeniably a Beckham punch, and why the 26-year-old superstar threw it.
And after watching the all-22 tape of Beckham’s middling day, in which Cleveland’s No. 1 receiver caught only two passes for 20 yards on seven targets, the first of the “Things I Noticed” while reviewing an interesting spate of Week 4 was how physical the Ravens were with Beckham during their 40-25 loss.
And make no mistake about it, Humphrey, a second-year pro who has become a great player despite donning an all-time bad cornerback number (44), was a big part of that effort.
During the first four plays of the following six-play reel, you’ll see the Ravens — led by Humphrey — being physical with Beckham during every incomplete target, followed by the “scuffle.” On the last play, you’ll see Beckham’s best play of the day, a 17-yard catch in which Humphrey actually wasn’t physical with him during the course of the route.
Beckham is a marvelous player, someone whose track-star speed, precise route-running and glue-laden hands make him an unbelievably difficult cover. Yet, he also has a history of not taking kindly to handsy corners, as Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore once noted that Beckham seemed to take physicality personally.
After seeing him snap Sunday in the midst of a frustrating day, the bet here is that defensive coordinators will show their corners this tape and continue to preach the importance of being physical with one of the league’s most gifted receivers in hopes of taking him out of his game.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Browns’ next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, follow suit. They’ll likely be starting a feisty undrafted rookie corner, Emmanuel Moseley, who enjoys contact and will be looking for any edge he can to make a name for himself against OBJ.
2. Why Dwayne Haskins struggled
Redskins coach Jay Gruden finally caved on Sunday, as rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. made his regular-season debut against the New York Giants. It was an ugly one, as he completed nine of 17 passes for 107 yards, no touchdowns and three picks.
And after checking the tape, I have some good news and bad news for Redskins fans. The bad news is that the Redskins’ tempo coming out of the huddle was too slow, so either Gruden has to get the plays called quicker or Haskins has to spit out the plan faster so his teammates can get lined up and give him time to survey the defense and make any needed adjustments.
If it’s more on Haskins — and chances are it is, considering he’s trying to learn one of the most verbiage-heavy playbooks in the NFL — he should not play until he’s mastered it, period.
The Chiefs were in a similar situation with Patrick Mahomes in 2017, and they didn’t let him play until he nailed down Andy Reid’s similar playbook. This is football 101, and they would be committing football malpractice by throwing a young quarterback out there if he doesn’t at least have the verbiage down.
Here’s the good news: Although the numbers were ugly, most of the mistakes Haskins made are things that will be eliminated when the Redskins hand the keys to him full-time and he gets more reps with his teammates. (I explain further in the video below, produced by my main man Ron Schiltz.)
3. Chris Godwin’s Michael Irvin impression
The first time I watched Chris Godwin play live was Jan. 2, 2017, when he showed out in Penn State’s 52-49 loss to USC in an epic Rose Bowl.
Godwin’s productivity was impressive as he caught nine passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. There must be something about Los Angeles that Godwin loves because the third-year receiver went ballistic in Tampa Bay’s stunning 55-40 win over the Los Angeles Rams, as he caught 12 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
What’s more, the 6-foot-1, 209-pounder pulled off one hell of a Michael Irvin impression. Irvin, a Hall of Famer who was listed at 6-2 and 207 pounds, lived on contested-ball catches and “bang 8” routes (skinny posts), and outside of some grabs on tunnel screens, Godwin seemed to rip the Rams up doing the same thing:
Godwin, 23, is on pace to catch 104 passes for 1,544 yards and 16 touchdowns. He could easily earn his first Pro Bowl honors this season, especially with the undermanned Bucs — who figure to be down a decent amount this season — being led by new coach and passing guru Bruce Arians.
To that end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Godwin and Mike Evans, Tampa’s No. 1 receiver, go nuts on Sunday against a New Orleans Saints defense that has allowed a stunning 13 passes over 20 yards, the third-most in the league.
Speaking of the Saints, I expect the Bucs to become well acquainted with ...
4. Vonn Bell, Mr. Johnny on the Spot
Bell, 24, is a former second-round pick who is off to a hell of a start in his contract season. With the promise of big dollars looming in March, Bell is on track to finish with 124 tackles, eight passes defensed and, oh yeah, an insane 12 fumble recoveries.
Seriously. Through four games, Bell has been at the right place at the right time for the Saints, snatching up three fumble recoveries. Check ‘em out here:
Bell is coming off an incredible outing in the Saints’ 12-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in which he recorded 10 tackles, a pass defensed and a fumble recovery. He also fared well in coverage. If he keeps up this pace (and adds a few interceptions), he’ll be positioned well to cash in this March.
5. Chiefs may catch a break this weekend
There’s been a lot of talk in Kansas City about the 4-0 Chiefs’ poor run defense. Seriously, they’re surrendering an abysmal 5.9 yards per carry.
They’ll be catching a break this weekend if Indianapolis running back Marlon Mack doesn’t play.
Mack, a third-year pro and former fourth-round pick, didn’t practice Wednesday with an ankle injury. He is on pace to finish with 1.352 yards and eight touchdowns on 288 carries as his overall speed and decisiveness has been on full display this season:
The Chiefs currently rank right in the middle of the pack in broken tackle percentage (10.8) in the NFL. If Mack is held out or limited due to the injury, the Andrew Luck-less Colts — who rank 19th in total offense — will be a little easier to defend during their Sunday night showdown at Arrowhead Stadium.
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