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Defense sets sights on Odell Beckham Jr.


CHARLOTTE -- If the talk surrounding how the Panthers defense will combat their opponent's superstar wide receiver is starting to sound familiar, that's because it should.

The Giants' Week 5 visit to Bank of America Stadium will mark the third consecutive game in which Carolina will be tested by one of the NFL's best wideouts. While his modest numbers in 2018 -- 31 receptions for 331 yards and zero touchdowns -- may suggest otherwise, Odell Beckham Jr. will still command a lot of attention when he takes the field on Sunday.

The Panthers don't want to be the ones victimized when Beckham inevitably breaks through with a big game.

For defensive coordinator Eric Washington, Beckham's speed and ability to stretch the field are key points of emphasis.

"Odell's a very quick receiver. They align him all over the place. They'll rotate him and align him in the backfield, so you have to account for him," Washington said. "He's exciting after he gets the football in his hand; he can pose a lot of challenges.

"Just a typical star receiver. Not to downplay it but just kind of what you see on a day-to-day basis. Tremendous player."

Cornerback James Bradberry will get a chance to add another stellar name to his resume when he lines up across from Beckham. In a Week 2 loss to the Falcons, Julio Jones was held to 64 yards and kept out of the end zone, thanks largely to Bradberry's efforts. A week later in a win over the Bengals, A.J. Green also failed to score while recording 58 yards - another testament to the third-year defensive back's growth.

Against Beckham, Bradberry once again is looking forward to showing what he can do.

"I know he's going to have his catches, but I know I have to have my pass breakups and interceptions," Bradberry said. "It's going to be a battle from the get-go."

If defending Jones and Green showed the defense anything, it's that it will take a complete effort to keep Beckham at bay.

New Panthers safety Eric Reid, who played with Beckham at LSU from 2011-12, will make his debut in Week 5 after being signed on September 27, and will be a big part of the secondary right away. Watching Beckham thrive comes as no surprise to Reid, who said Beckham knew early on that he possessed the talent to be great.

"He knew he had the potential; he just worked to unlock it," Reid said. "He can do it all. They try to get him the ball many different ways and then when he has the ball in his hands, he's special. It's tough enough to guard him and not let him catch it but then when he does catch it, it's a whole other world because then you've got to get him on the ground."

Since the Panthers and Giants last played in 2015 -- a 38-35 victory for Carolina that featured an epic battle between Beckham and cornerback Josh Norman -- both sides have seen numerous personnel changes. But while the Panthers' secondary no longer features the outspoken Norman, a newcomer has already made it known that he not only can step into that role but seeks to make it his own.

As a member of "DBU" from 2015-17, cornerback Donte Jackson brandishes the same LSU flag that Reid and Beckham carried before him and is proud to remind you of his skills every week. But, when asked about what it will be like to face his fellow Tiger for the first time, the confident rookie showed nothing but respect.

"He's a great player. He's a big play waiting to happen," Jackson said of Beckham. "We got a lot of stuff that's put in play to have a great game. If our defense comes out there and executes, we'll be good.

"You just got to be ready for him. We will be."

View photos from the week of practice leading up to the Panthers' game against the Giants.