The delicate balance of managing Odell Beckham's rehab from his torn ACL from last year and getting him on the same page as Baker Mayfield in this pivotal third season together can produce understandable feelings of frustration, but also has a couple benefits.
It's difficult to argue that the most important aspect of training camp for Beckham is keeping him healthy for the season. In a perfect world, Beckham takes every rep possible to ensure he and Mayfield are in sync for the upcoming season. Between making sure his knee is strong and protecting him from himself, the Browns strategy is prudent for the long haul.
Keep in mind the same relentless, fanatical dedication Beckham took to rehab from the knee injury that allowed him to recover so quickly might be at least partly responsible for the groin injury he suffered ahead of the 2019 season. That obsessive nature and work ethic that have enabled Beckham to be among the best receivers in the NFL can also potentially derail it.
Nothing can make a bigger impact on the Browns offense than for Beckham to play at the superstar level he's shown capable. In 2020, more of the issues were on Mayfield's end than Beckham's, but that doesn't change the fact that Mayfield needs reps to feel out exactly how Beckham is going to run routes and create separation.
The combination of trying to master Kevin Stefanski's offense on the fly, processing what defenses were doing and effectively time up throws with what can be a unique route running style from Beckham resulted in some terrible throws to the star receiver as well as missing opportunities where he was wide open.
There is clearly work to do for the two ahead of the season, though it certainly helps the two have already worked together multiple times before training camp even begun.
It helps a great deal that Mayfield has been great so far, albeit in only a couple practices. If Mayfield and the offense were performing as poorly as they were early in training camp last year when they were installing the offense, there would be more scrutiny of Beckham's status.
As long as Mayfield can continue to shine in practices, something he's likely to do given his familiarity with the offensive system combined with just how talented he is, it makes precautionary absences for Beckham more palatable.
There is a silver lining when Beckham is held out of practice. Mayfield can really focus on improving the connection with other players that are going to be key cogs within the offense, including tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku. Just as Beckham needs to be a bigger part of the offense, the tight end position needs to be more productive in the passing game than it was last year.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the team resting Beckham is Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Browns will be sprinkling in some veteran days off in addition to managing aches and pains but at 22 years old, Jones is going to get tons of reps because he needs less rest.
The outlook for Jones is cautiously optimistic that he can take a major leap forward from last year. These extra reps could positively impact the developmental arc for the second year receiver.
The connection between Mayfield and Beckham is arguably the most critical improvement for this team to make for the 2021 season. Even if Beckham wasn't coming back from a knee injury, the best course of action for the Browns would be to manage his workload in training camp because the focus isn't about what he does in the summer but what he does on Sundays. The two will have to get it done in a reduced capacity erring on the side of caution.