It’s not uncommon for prognosticators to falsely predict the rise of a new superpower in sports. There have been a lot of false starts even in the AFC North, with the Cleveland Browns having been the latest. They were the favorites to win the division in 2019, according to the betting lines. They ended up finishing with a worse record than the previous year, going 6-10.
Much of the increased enthusiasm for what the Browns might be capable of doing was tied to the acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., a former All-Pro talent, although he hadn’t been putting up the same numbers in recent years, even if due to injuries.
Before ever playing a down together in the NFL, a lot of people were branding Beckham and his former college teammate, Jarvis Landry, as the top wide receiver duo in the NFL, or at least near the top, and a duo that would help take Cleveland to the next level.
It didn’t happen, of course. Both managed to squeak by the 1000-yard mark by the end of the year, and between the two of them, they totaled 10 touchdowns (Landry had six, with Beckham limited to only four touchdowns), but these are not transformative numbers.
2020 will be different, of course, and not simply because the next year is always the year that is going to be different. Last year, both of them played through groin injuries, and both of them had those injuries surgically repaired in the offseason.
“Them being a little bit banged up – well, not a little bit; they had to have surgery – it definitely hindered them, physically obviously but the mental part of it and the frustrations that came from that I think affected it more”, Mayfield told reporters yesterday about his top wide receivers.
“That’s really frustrating if you’re not able to physically do the things you’re normally capable of doing”, he added. “For them, I feel that frustration, but they are taking advantage of this time to get better. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do this year”.
For his part, he said that he sees that both of them are working extremely hard to rehab from their injuries, and that he even sees a different mindset in them this time around. “I think they went back to the basics”, he said. “They’re ready to take over, and it’s their time now”.
As I have said multiple times this offseason, this means more than anything that it’s Mayfield’s time. The onus is on him to show—well, everybody—that with all the pieces around him, he has the talent to take this team to the next level. Now with healthy wide receivers, that’s one less excuse that can be invoked in his defense.