The losses are piling up for the Cleveland Browns and the catches are not for Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham is going through the worst two-game stretch of career, catching just four balls in the last two games combined for 47 yards and no touchdowns. Through his first five games with the Browns, OBJ has 23 catches for 335 yards and one score.
Beckham has seen his target share go down every game, from 11 on opening week against the Titans to just six in a 31-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday.
Second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has also struggled and is coming off the worst game of his career. With the Niners constant pressure in his face, Mayfield finished just 100 yards on 8-of-22 passing with a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns. This season, he’s tossed twice as many interceptions (8) as he has touchdowns (4) and has not performed close to the MVP standard that was expected when the team brought in Beckham to play alongside fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
While speaking to the media on Wednesday, Mayfield said that Beckham has been frustrated not just because he’s been unable to help the team win with his limited role in the offense.
“He’s frustrated when he’s not getting the ball and we’re losing,’’ Mayfield said via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “I mean, why not be? Because he feels like he could help us win if we get the ball in his hands. And when we’re winning, that’s the thing about it, he’s a team guy, he’s helping us win any way he can and he understands how teams are going to play him.
“But it’s frustrating when he’s not getting the ball and we’re losing. You can’t blame him. That’s one of the best receivers in the league and if he’s not getting the ball, he always has that in the back of his mind of what if I did get the ball and changed this game.”
Odell Beckham’s Limited Preseason Hurt Browns
There was a lot made of Beckham missing most of OTAs and sitting out all of the Browns preseason games. On top of that, he was hampered by a hip injury that limited his work during practice.
Mayfield and Beckham had played down the missed time previously, but the Browns QB admitted that not having that time to gain chemistry hurt.
“For him, that’s why the mental part of it is what’s important, knowing exactly what he needs to do, where he needs to be,” said Mayfield. “Yeah, it definitely hurt not having him get real live reps but it didn’t hinder us in the long run and now it’s just about execution.”
Head coach Freddie Kitchens was less willing to pin it on the missed time.
“We’re into the season now,” he said. “We’re onto Seattle. That’s the only thing I care about. We set precedences during the course of training camp on how we want to play the games, how we want to attack the games, preparation from a physical standpoint and then once the season starts, we are day to day and week-to-week.
“Why isn’t he getting targeted more?” a frustrated Kitchens added. “We have plays, we have reads to go through, coverage dictates that and there are several reasons. I think we threw the ball 24 times the other night and he was targeted six times. I do not know what the magic number is – I do not know what you guys are looking for.”
Kitchens noted that he’s not upset with Beckham’s production and just wants to win games.
“I am frustrated and disappointed in the loss, not any kind of production from anybody,” Kitchens said. “Of course, when production picks up, wins usually pick up. It goes hand in hand. I am about winning and losing the game. That is it.”
Return of Rashard Higgins Should Spark Browns Offense
Rashard Higgins is just the team’s No. 3 wide receiver, but he plays a big role in the offense as one of Mayfield’s favorite targets. However, Higgins has missed four straight games with a knee injury. He should be returning to the lineup this week after getting in a full practice on Wednesday.
“It’s just about how we’re teaching the offense the details of the routes,” Mayfield said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say chemistry is within that. It’s just understanding how we want to get things accomplished and I think right now we’re headed in the right direction. I think we know exactly how we want to attack teams and exactly what we want to do.”
The Browns face a tough Seahawks squad on Sunday as they look to climb back to .500. Seattle ranks No. 7 in pass defense, allowing 270.6 yards per game through the air.