There are no diplomas awarded for pass-catching but consider Amani Toomer as having majored in Wide Receiver.
He spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Giants and owns the franchise reception record with 668. Odell Beckham Jr., in only his fifth season, has 390 and is rocketing up the charts, currently No. 4 on the list, behind Toomer and running backs Tiki Barber (586) and Joe Morrison (395).
There is no way to hold Beckham back from scaling the heights. And Toomer knows it. He knows how good Beckham is. He also sees Beckham as an unfinished product capable of much more.
“I want him to break all my records and that stuff,’’ Toomer told the Post. “I just feel like he has a great opportunity and I don’t know if he’s realizing it. His full potential. We know he’s good and we know he’s doing well, I think he just should be better. That’s just what I see. As good as he is, as great as he is, he can be better.’’
To illustrate the point, Toomer points to a fateful play in last Sunday’s 30-27 overtime victory over the Bears. He took a look at Eli Manning’s eighth interception of the season and saw fault in Beckham. This is what Toomer is talking about when he views the 26-year old superstar through a prism of the highest of expectations. It is what Beckham’s first NFL coach (and Toomer’s last NFL coach), Tom Coughlin, preached to Beckham: As talented as you are, the league will catch up to you unless you truly hone in on your technique and mental preparedness.
“I love Odell, I think he’s a great player,’’ Toomer said, “but I think he could be so much better. That’s what frustrates me about him.’’
Beckham was lined up wide right with 53 seconds left in the first quarter. Sterling Shepard was to his left, in the slot, and cut behind Beckham on a short route to the right sideline. Beckham, with cornerback Kyle Fuller waiting across the line of scrimmage, ran straight, crossed the Bears’ 40-yard line and had yet to make a move when Manning released the ball. Fuller, an expert ball-hawk, had Beckham in front of him and realized the quarterback’s intention. Fuller broke for the ball before Beckham did anything other than make a slight move inside, without turning his head. Interception.
“The guy jumped on a slant, it happens, unfortunately,’’ Manning said afterward.
“It’s either one of two things,’’ Toomer said. “Either the defensive player is reading the route combination or Odell was running a route where the defender jumped the route. Both of those things aren’t good, because when you’re running a route, the task of being a route-runner is making the defender think you’re doing something that you’re not. Your job is to put yourself in a position to where you have a better chance to get the ball. If you don’t you darn sure make every effort to knock the ball away.
“It was a slant, that’s what it looked like, and [Beckham] just didn’t cross the guy’s face. He just kinda stopped. I wouldn’t say it was Eli’s fault.’’
There is a flip-side to this wide receiver-centric point of view: The coverage dictated Manning should not have thrown this pass and there was little, or nothing, Beckham could have done to prevent the turnover.
Through 12 games Beckham has 77 catches for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns (plus two passing TDs), on pace for 103 receptions, 1,402 yards and eight receiving touchdowns.
“That’s great for everybody else but for him maybe he should be trying to push records, like 2,000 [yards],’’ Toomer said. “I mean, he is killing it, but he should be killing it even more.’’
Beckham’s coaches say he is coachable and he and Manning are often seen discussing concepts and the fine-points of their on-field relationship. There could be more there, though.
“I just feel like he’s super-talented,’’ Toomer said, “and I just want him to realize it.’’