ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Denver's defensive All-Pros were probably more excited to see Odell Beckham Jr. than perhaps most Broncos fans.
But after Beckham suffered a season-ending ankle fracture a week ago, what could have been a thrilling matchup against the "No-Fly Zone" and the rest of the defense is no more. And though his absence obviously puts New York at a great disadvantage, Von Miller, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are disappointed Beckham won't line up Sunday night.
The members of the secondary had gotten a taste of what kind of opponent Beckham is from facing him in previous Pro Bowls, but they all knew playing him in a regular-season game wouldn't be the same. And they both were salivating at the challenge.
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"We weren't really going," Talib said. "He was just running fades and stop routes, really. We was running like two or three routes. That definitely wasn't the real Odell, you know what I'm saying?"
The real Odell was what Talib and Harris were both preparing for, and that was who they wanted to see, not to mention fellow Giants starter Brandon Marshall, who also suffered a season-ending injury.
"I wanted that competition," Harris said. "I wanted to see him and [Sterling] Shepard and Brandon [Marshall], all three of them. I mean, that's how you get those accolades, those Pro Bowls and All-Pros — going against the best."
The same goes for the man who was designing the defensive concepts to stop Beckham.
"For me, I want to go against the best," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said. "That's just what's in me. So any team we play, I hope that they're full strength, we're full strength and we go play and see who can win. Those guys — Talib, Chris Harris, Darian Stewart, all those guys — they're very competitive, so they want the best from the other team. But with those guys not being there, we have to make sure that we handle our business."
Take a look back to the last time the Broncos played the Giants in their all-blue uniforms. The Broncos won 26-6 at home. (Photos: AP Images)
Missing Beckham isn't just about missing the competition, though. Beckham's energy and personality on the football field is infectious, even for his opponents. These Broncos saw that firsthand at the Pro Bowl during the game and the week leading up to it.
And for Miller, the disappointment goes even further. Beckham is one of his close friends, and the two had never played a regular-season game against one another.
When Miller was asked what he'd miss not being able to play against Beckham, his answer was simple: "Everything."
"I think we were both looking forward to this game," Miller said. "Right when we saw the matchup at the beginning of the year when schedules came out, I was like, 'Yeah, I can't wait for this one.' I don't even really circle games, but this one was one I had circled.
"But life happened."