Tre’Davious White was quick to cast aside any talk of a man-to-man showdown with Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday.
“Obviously, it’s not going to come down to a one-on-one matchup,” the Buffalo Bills’ best cornerback said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s going to be a team thing. I feel like if we go out there and play well as a team, as a great defense together, I feel like we’ll be fine.”
Count on White matching up with Cleveland’s superstar receiver, wherever he lines up on the FirstEnergy Stadium field. After all, the Bills had White match up with Washington rookie Terry McLaurin last week.
However, White surely is being honest when he says – repeatedly – he’s not going to be flying solo against a player who is widely viewed as one of the top two wide receivers in the NFL (with Atlanta’s Julio Jones).
“He’s got all-world talent and all-world ability,” White said. “So it’s going to take the whole defense to try to slow him down. We’re going to depend on the rush to get there. We’re going to depend on our linebackers to help us. It’s going to be a total team thing. It’s not going to be a one man on one thing.”
Virtually every team plays a safety over the top of Beckham much of the game.
The challenge for the Bills will be trying to prevent Beckham from making big plays despite extra attention.
With the Browns standing at 2-6, Cleveland fans are clamoring for the team to get Beckham more involved.
He has 39 catches for 575 yards, which puts him on pace for 78 and 1,150 this season. Quality numbers. However, Beckham averaged 96 catches for 1,375 yards and 11.6 touchdowns his last three full seasons.
He has caught only one TD pass this season, and none in his last six games, which is the longest TD drought of his six-year career. He has been targeted on only three passes in the red zone through eight games.
Just get him the ball, Browns fans are saying. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield says he hears them.
“I think people have this picture perfect thing where it was going to be sunshine and rainbows, and he was going to have a whole lot of one on ones,” Mayfield told reporters this week. “It is Odell Beckham. He is going to have double coverage, and we have to find ways to format things to get him the ball and force-feed him early on to where he can make an impact before we can have the perfect look to have a shot play. That is something we have learned the hard way.”
Beckham is great on both slants and boundary throws – go routes, fade patterns, come-backs and back-shoulder passes on the sideline. His quickness allows him to get separation early in the down. He accelerates and decelerates quicker and smoother than most receivers. And he makes contested catches when the coverage is tight.
He ran a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash coming out of Louisiana State in 2014. His time in the 20-yard shuttle (a measure of change-of-direction quickness) was 3.94 seconds, fourth fastest of any receiver entering the draft in the past 10 years.
“You can’t get a bead on him,” said White, who was a freshman at LSU in Beckham’s last season at the school. “He comes off the line the same. He runs every route the same. It looks like he’s going deep every time. Obviously, he’s going to make some plays. The guy’s spectacular. It’s just going to be up to us as a team to try to limit him from trying to get over the top of us and limit him from making those big plays. I feel like if we keep him in front of us, we’ll be fine.”
Look for the Bills to play a lot of zone coverage, three-deep and quarters coverage (with the two outside corners responsible for the full length of their outside quarter of the field). If the Browns' running game is rolling, it makes it tough for defenses to play two deep safeties, taking them both out of run support. Some defenses defend Beckham by playing quarters on one side of the field with a deep safety on Beckham’s side, which puts a man both underneath and deep on the star wideout.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be the Cleveland Browns against the Buffalo Bills,” White said. “It’s not going to be one man against the other.”