One of the sillier narratives that has crept up in the NFL in recent years, to me, has been the idea that the Cleveland Browns are a better team, a better offense, without Odell Beckham Jr. in it. Critics point to last season’s numbers with Beckham and then after he was injured as evidence to that effect, disregarding every other mitigating factor.
As Beckham works his way back to full speed from his torn ACL, his offensive coordinator, Alex Van Pelt, isn’t hearing any of the ridiculous chatter. “We will be better with Odell, no doubt”, he told reporters as the Browns wrapped up minicamp. “He is an elite player. Not having him out there, we had to fight and claw to continue to have offensive success”.
Beckham was injured on the Browns’ second offensive play of their seventh game last season against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was the target of a Baker Mayfield pass that was intercepted, and the injury occurred as he was trying to chase the defender down.
Up to that point, through six games, he had caught 23 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. The offense was held to seven points or fewer twice, but they also scored 32 points or more the other four times, including a 49-38 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4. Beckham caught five passes for 81 yards and two scores in that game.
“Anytime you have a great athlete, you see a lot of coverage roll to that player”, Van Pelt said of Beckham’s affect on defenses. “It’s not always great to be double-teamed all of the time, but sometimes, that’s going to happen when you’re great. I would expect teams to have to honor Odell, and potentially at times, put two guys on him”.
Beckham of course was once on a historically great pace. Through his first three seasons between 2014-16 with the New York Giants, he recorded 288 receptions for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns. But injuries have slowed him since.
Even in 2019, his first season with the Browns, he played in all 16 games, but he dealt with multiple groin tears for the entirety of the season, and had surgery afterward. He still finished with 74 catches for 1,035 yards. He also topped 1,000 yards the year before, his final season with the Giants, despite missing four games.
There really is no reason that Mayfield and the offense shouldn’t be better for his presence, and perhaps they will finally have him at 100 percent, or something close to it. With a season now into the Kevin Stefanski regime and offense, Browns fans should rightfully be excited about what could be on the horizon.