EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Washington Redskins' game plan won't be any mystery, whether Josh Norman shadows Odell Beckham or not. They are coming for Beckham. They will trash-talk him and shove him and do everything they can to knock him off his game.
And Beckham knows it.
"I would do the same," he said. "It's mental warfare. It's the art of war, you know what I mean?"
What matters most, of course, is what Beckham does in response -- or perhaps in retaliation - when Norman and his teammates verbally and physically go after Beckham on Sunday at the Meadowlands when the 2-0 Giants play the 0-2 Redskins. Last December, against Norman, Beckham lost his head and his way, and ended up so out of control he was slapped with a one-game suspension.
It was embarrassing. He said back then he "dropped the ball on sportsmanship." He later added "I expect better from myself." He does. And so do the Giants.
And he knows he absolutely can't let anything like that happen ever again.
"Honestly there really is a bigger concern," Beckham said. "Division game. 2-0 start to the year. I'm really focused on going 3-0. Wherever I go, wherever I'm going to line up, whoever's going to be there, my job is to win. Honestly, my biggest concern is winning this game."
That's great, and it's a continuation of Beckham saying mostly the right things since the Giants 38-35 loss to the Panthers last December when he came absolutely unglued against Norman, dropped a huge pass and was flagged for three personal fouls. He hasn't been completely innocent since then. He engaged in a brief, Twitter spat with Norman in March. But for the most part, he's at least tried to show how much he's matured.
The proof, of course, will come on the field, and that is where things get complicated. Beckham is a passionate player. He doesn't shy away from trash talk. He doesn't back down from challenges. The key is this: Will he be able to stay in control without taking all the usual energy out of his own game?
"If you watch Russell Westbrook play basketball, he plays with a lot of emotion or passion - whatever you want to call it," Beckham said. "It's what's best for some players, it's what's not best for other players. So you use it. You just be smart. Just play smart."
Since that incident last December, Beckham has played "smart." However, maybe it's just a coincidence, but he certainly hasn't played as well. He's had four straight games with fewer than 100 yards receiving - the longest stretch of his short career. And he's had just one touchdown catch in those four games, which is astonishing for a player who had been averaging about one touchdown catch per game.
And so far this season, Beckham hasn't really resembled the top-tier receiver that he's always been. His 12 catches for 159 yards do put him on pace for a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but he also had that huge, fourth-quarter drop against the Saints on Sunday, and had that would-be touchdown catch deflected away from him by Saints cornerback Sterling Moore.
Beckham is expected to make those plays. He's expected to do better than the 10.8 yards per catch he averaged on Sunday. He's expected to be star, to make the big plays the Giants need to finally get their offense going.
And if he does it against Norman on Sunday against the Redskins … well, would there be any better revenge for Beckham than that?
"From a mental standpoint, he's in a completely different place than he was a year ago," said Giants receiver Victor Cruz. "He understands how to conduct himself on the field. It's about the team game and winning."
"We've learned from the past. We've moved on from the past," Giants coach Ben McAdoo added. "I think last year was a one-time thing."
The Giants certainly hope so, and Beckham does, too. But it may not be so easy for him to keep his composure being shadowed all game by what McAdoo called "a premiere cover corner." After all, covering Beckham twice a year is surely a big reason why the Redskins gave Norman a five-year, $75 million contract. And Norman surely hasn't forgotten how he got under Beckham's skin last season and rendered him ineffective. Since then, the two have definitely developed a "hatred" for each other, as receiver DeSean Jackson - a friend to both of them - said on Wednesday, that will undoubtedly be … um … discussed on the field.
What everyone - Norman, the Giants, the officials, the world - will be watching is how Beckham responds, and whether he really is a "better" man.
"It's been a lot that's happened since then," Beckham said. "That was a lot at happened in that time period of my life. You take the good and the bad and you learn from it. That's how you grow, that's how you improve yourself as an individual, as a human being. You take the life lessons and you learn from it."
And what has he learned about Norman? "I expect him to play his game the way he's always splayed to get him in the position that he's in now," Beckham said. "He's obviously done a good job with that. So I expect him to play his game."
Beckham just needs to play his game too this time, no matter how much of a thorn Norman is in his side.