EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – He didn't ignite any fireworks, but Odell Beckham, Jr. still lit up MetLife Stadium in his first game in 336 days.
Beckham returned to the field today for the first time since last Oct. 8, when he fractured his left ankle in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Eli Manning threw 15 passes to him, or more than twice as many as any other target. Beckham caught 11 of them, for 111 yards. His longest reception gained 24 yards, modest by Beckham standards. But Beckham was happy simply to be able to put on his uniform, though his joy was tempered by the Giants' 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I'm just thankful to be out there again," he said. "I know I told the story many times, I was in the basement night after night just praying to get back together mentally for the season, and allow me to come out and put my best foot forward today."
Beckham certainly did that, as he had his eighth career game with at least 10 receptions, and his 20th with at least 100 yards. And his presence excited his coaches and teammates.
"I thought he competed throughout, put him in a lot of different situations and I think it's a good idea to throw him the ball," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We threw to him a lot and he made a lot of plays.
The Giants got Beckham involved immediately, as Manning threw him a six-yard pass on the Giants' first play (which was nullified by Ereck Flowers' tripping penalty). On the second play of their second possession, he caught the 24-yarder, then had two more receptions before Aldrick Rosas kicked the first of his three field goals.
"I thought our timing was good," Manning said. "…I would say we were pretty accurate when I was going to him. A couple of pass interferences that could've been touchdowns or big plays, so that was smart on their part trying to hold him on those. Obviously, close on a couple of others that could've been touchdowns as well. I think our timing is good and the work has paid off. We just have to keep at it."
That was evident on two passes in the end zone that just eluded Beckham's fingertips.
"There was just a lot of moments and opportunities where we had chances and we didn't connect," Beckham said. "Whether it was the first game or whatever it is, we just missed those chances, but they are right there. Our plan is for them to be there all year, so instead of seven points it could have been three extra touchdowns. There's 28, it's just a matter of time before everything starts clicking. We came out and put our best foot forward and it's a good place to start.
"It's close, it's football, though. We had those, if he can sit back in there just a little bit longer, just set his feet and get rid of it. It's a collective thing, I can run faster, the O-line can block better, it's just something we all have to get on the same page with. First game, I'm proud of this team, I'm happy to be back. I'm happy to be a part of this team, I'm looking forward to the season."
The Giants were much more productive in the second half, when Beckham caught six passes for 66 yards.
"I feel like every day at practice Eli and I have been getting open and finding ways to separate," Beckham said. "Now it's about putting all the pieces together, he needs a little bit more time, we need to find a way to make those catches on third down. We need to find ways to keep drives alive, we went into the first game and unfortunately the ball didn't roll our way. Like we said, it is a good starting point.
"This time there is so much positive to take from it. This is a brand-new team, it's a great starting point for us, we have something to build off of. We are going to walk out of here with our heads up wishing we would have got the W."
They'll get their next chance to earn the first victory of the Shurmur era next Sunday in Dallas.