Browns Must Maximize Beckham in Final 4 Games
One of the biggest failings of the 2019 season for the Cleveland Browns has been their inability to maximize Odell Beckham. With four games left and the playoffs a virtual impossibility, this is one area that can improve dramatically and carry over into 2020. The presence of Beckham has contributed to Jarvis Landry having a career year, which is great, but not really why they added Beckham in the first place. Beckham was to be a superstar receiver paired with Baker Mayfield that would take both to another level, which simply has not happened.
The Browns aren't better without Beckham. The notion of trading him due to the setback they've experienced this year is a drastic and shortsighted move. They'll never get back the type of return they gave up to get him and the team should be fully committed to making this thing work. They will have never have another opportunity with a franchise quarterback and one of the most talented receivers in the league.
The fault lies with everyone from John Dorsey to Freddie Kitchens and his staff as well as Mayfield and Beckham. Dorsey for the offensive line issues, Kitchens and his staff for not doing a better job of scheming more specifically to maximize Beckham and then Mayfield and Beckham for not performing better on the field as a tandem.
Beckham gets some manufactured touches in the Browns offense, which are often in the form of wide receiver screens. They'll try to throw it deep to him when they can protect long enough. The stuff in between needs to be more effective. The slants are great when they execute and they hit on some comebacks. When it comes to specifically trying to scheme Beckham open in intermediate areas of the field, the Browns need to do better.
And while it has improved, much of the first half of the season, Mayfield and Beckham didn't have good chemistry. That's not an excuse. It's an indictment. Too often, they weren't on the same page. Mayfield's passes weren't consistent in terms of timing or ball placement. That had Beckham being caught by surprise on passes and making a number of drops. The combination of those two factors made it easier to look in the direction of other receivers such as Landry.
The second game against the Pittsburgh Steelers might have been the worst case scenario for the offense when it came to Beckham. The offense flowed through Landry in the passing game almost entirely. Beckham felt like a decoy. Part of that was an inability to protect Mayfield from the pass rush, which made it easier to go with Landry on shorter routes. Beckham effectively became a decoy clearing out space for teammates, limiting his impact and the Browns lost with only 13 points to show for their effort.
Defenses are obviously going to take extra precaution that Beckham doesn't beat them. He's still the most dangerous player on the Browns offense followed by Nick Chubb. But for a coaching staff that has no issue incorporating new players and finding ways to use them as they have with Kareem Hunt and a player like Stephen Carlson, they have to take the same approach with Beckham, redoubling their efforts to get this part of the offense to be more effective.
A month of improved efficiency with Beckham makes the Browns more dangerous on offense as they try to finish out their season on a high note. It also makes the prospect of keeping Kitchens the head coach a more attractive option, giving more reason to believe this will be a much better team in 2020.