On routes at least five yards downfield, Odell Beckham has been open over 70 percent of the time this season. That’s one of the highest rates in football, yet, for whatever reason, he’s remained a consistent non-factor in the Browns’ passing game, showing concerningly little chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield despite playing together the last three seasons.
Certainly, Beckham, coming off another injury-plagued year in 2020, isn’t the dominant force he was early in his career when many regarded him as the most gifted receiver in all of football. But even if the 27-year-old isn’t as explosive as he was in his Giants heyday, he’s still an elite athlete and plenty capable of creating separation downfield. So why can’t he and Mayfield get on the same page?
Odell’s continued lack of involvement, seeing just three targets a week ago on a day the Browns produced 42 points and over 500 yards of offense, is confounding to say the least. Chris Simms of NBC Sports weighed in during his weekly appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, admitting the Browns’ Odell predicament is as mystifying to him as it is to all of us. “I don’t get it,” said Simms, who spent eight years in the NFL—mostly as a backup quarterback—for Denver, Tennessee and Tampa Bay. “I’ve actually given up on it. It’s not gonna’ happen. There’s an issue there. I have no idea what it is.”
Simms felt Beckham could have gone for “190 yards” in Week 3, getting open at will against a middling Bears secondary. Yet, Beckham converted just five of nine targets for 77 scoreless yards in the winning cause. It’s been over two years since Beckham’s last 100-yard game and with Cleveland continuing to pound the rock (only the Saints have run on a higher percentage of plays this season), that drought is unlikely to end anytime soon.
Beckham, at least publicly, has projected a sense of optimism, insisting he’s not discouraged by his slow start (career-low 41.3 yards per game). But with the trade deadline fast approaching (November 2nd), the Browns may soon have a difficult decision to make on Beckham’s future in Cleveland. “If I’m Cleveland, I’d be looking to trade Odell Beckham Jr.,” expressed Simms. “It’s not going to work. You might be able to get something good back in return. I don’t know if they want to give up on it quite yet, but it’s very weird and odd that [Mayfield and Beckham] can’t connect.”
We’ll see if Beckham, who still has three years and over $45 million remaining on his current contract, breaks out of his season-long slump Sunday when the Browns host the NFL’s last unbeaten team, the Kyler Murray-led Arizona Cardinals.