Two weeks ago, Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was focused on finding his voice as a leader. Since then, he’s lost plenty of his punch as a player.
For two straight games, Beckham has caught only two passes, last night generating only 27 yards. To make matters worse, an OBJ punt return gone awry essentially became the dagger for the Dawg Pound on Monday night.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Beckham told reporters after the game regarding a desperate effort that saw Beckham retreat by seven yards while looking in vain for an opening (and holding the ball in one hand) before having it knocked from his grasp. “I’m way too good to do that. I just did too much. I felt like maybe it could give us a spark or something like that. You could feel the energy they had already taken out of us. To be honest, it just seemed like we were ready to go home and I just wanted to keep fighting to the final whistle. I just did way too much.”
Embedded in that explanation is an intriguing observation. Beckham sensed that the energy was gone and that “we were ready to go home.” That clearly didn’t sit well with Beckham, which may propel him into a more vocal and visible role in the locker room and on the sideline.
On the field, his role hasn’t been all that visible. Alhough the Browns aren’t forcing passes to Beckham, they’re designing plays aimed at getting the ball in OBJ’s hands without throwing it to him. He threw the ball on the first snap of the game, and he ran it twice for 15 yards.
“Teams are going to do their stuff to take him out of the game, but we also have to take advantage of matchups when we do have them,” quarterback Baker Mayfield told reporters after the game.
Coach Freddie Kitchens denied that it has been harder to get Beckham involved in the offense than Kitchens thought it would be, and he downplayed talk that red-zone throws aren’t going to Beckham.
“[W]e’ve got other guys that we’re targeting in the red zone, too,” Kitchens said. “[Antonio] Callaway’s wide open tonight in the red zone. So our quarterback’s going to go through a progression, all right? Sometimes Odell’s the first read in that progression, sometimes he’s the second, sometimes he’s the third, sometimes he’s the fourth.”
Still, Beckham surely expected to be getting the ball more often. With 335 receiving yards through five contests, Beckham is averaging 67 per game. That’s 20 yards per game fewer than his last season with the Giants, and more than 40 yards lower than his 108.75 per-game average from his rookie season.
And it’s one thing for Beckham to not be involved if the team is winning. If they’re losing and also (in Beckham’s assessment) lifeless, his lack of opportunities eventually could morph into regret, reevaluation, and eventually a desire for another relocation.