CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are used to being the focal points within the offense.
This year, that isn’t, and doesn’t need to be the case with running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt carrying the load on the ground.
“You have two legitimate No. 1 backs in the backfield, and our team is very, very, very good at running the football so you have to play to your strengths,” Beckham said Thursday. “Then I think you learn where you fit in and where you are able to make your plays and how you can help the team.”
In last week’s 35-30 win over the Bengals Chubb and Hunt combined for 210 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.
“It's really the key to our offense,” Landry said. “We all know what those two guys can do with the ball in their hands. For us, continuing to know our offense is going to run through those guys. It's great for our offense to have two guys like that.”
Beckham, who sets 1,000 yards receiving as the low bar for him to achieve each season, has already come to terms with the understanding that might be difficult to achieve his personal goals this year within the flow of the offense.
“One of my biggest growths has come in acceptance in a sense and for me knowing it is probably not going to be that kind of season,” Beckham said.
The 3-time Pro Bowl receiver who has hit 1,000 yards 5 times in his career spoke about learning from Michael Jordan’s ‘The Last Dance’ documentary on ESPN to find the game within the game. In this case, run blocking.
“I tell Chubb every day, ‘I owe you. I owe you. I owe you,’” Beckham said. “I want that big block that springs him free just to see him running down the field, even though he is not going to give me any love after it and he is not going to have much emotion about it. Just to see him running free and down the sideline is going to be a great feeling.”
Through 2 games Beckham leads the team with 16 targets and he’s caught 7 of them for 74 yards and a touchdown. Landry has been targeted 9 times, catching 8 of them for 107 yards.
“I do not think anybody is panicking right now about targets or anything like that,” Landry said. “Our main focus is just trying to win games.”
The formula worked well against Cincinnati and the hope is that it will continue to be just as successful over the final 14 regular season games.
“The strength of our team right now has been our running game, and we want to continue to try to use that as much as possible, but I think we are smart enough to recognize when the ball needs to be in the air and not on the ground,” Landry said. “We have a lot of unselfish guys in this building. That is what it is going to take when you have a lot of Pro Bowl-caliber players on one team to be unselfish and understand that when a ball comes your way, just take advantage of the opportunities, whether they be few or many.”
Balancing act – During the first half against the Bengals the Browns ran 28 plays – 14 pass and 14 run but 11 of their last 13 plays were runs.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski consults with his assistants throughout the game to avoid giving away tendencies.
“I think balance doesn’t have to mean 50-50 like we’ve talked about before,” Stefanski said. “If we’re 50-50 that’s kind of the nature of how it went. As long as you have the threat of the run or pass for a 60-minute game, ultimately that’s what you’re looking for.”
Loaded gun – After watching his defense give up 68 points and 730 yards in the first 2 games defensive coordinator Joe Woods is thrilled to be getting linebacker Mac Wilson as well as cornerbacks greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson back.
“I just feel like you are getting back to where you have more bullets,” Woods said. “There are more things we can do. We can be more versatile and create some different packages that we want to create. I think that is the biggest boost.
“For the guys that have been playing, I think now they are gaining confidence. They are out there on the game field. They are making some plays. Overall for the whole defense, it gives us more depth and more confidence at each position.”
Don’t pick me – Baker Mayfield has an interception streak going: 8 games and counting. He threw his 11th pick over that span in the fourth quarter against the Bengals on a throw deep over the middle that ended a drive that saw them move to Cincinnati’s 26.
“We never want to throw interceptions, ever, ever,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “When they do come up, like the tipped pass in Baltimore, those are ones that you can stomach, but as he grows in this system and learns that if we call a shot play and it is not there, it is OK to check the ball down. You do not have to throw it.
“We are still learning each other, and we are still learning the system. I think you will continue to see that growth. That streak will end soon.”
Fun film – Van Pelt admitted he enjoyed watching the Browns’ final scoring drive against the Bengals that saw them run on all 6 plays totalling 75 yards and capped by Kareem Hunt’s touchdown run.
“That was a lot of fun, obviously,” Van Pelt said. “You get in those situations in four-minute offense and you are able to go down and punch it in late in the game like that when you have a lead, that is what it is all about. Really hats off to that blocking unit up front, and that includes the wide receivers and tight ends, and our fullbacks got involved. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan put together a hell of a running plan for us last week and to be able to do that to close the game out or at least put yourself in position to be up at the end the game. That is a tribute to those men up front and the runners, as well.”
Ward limited – While right tackle Jack Conklin and cornerback Kevin Johnson were both upgraded to full participants in Thursday’s practice, cornerback Denzel Ward was added to the daily report and listed as limited due to a groin injury.
Injury report – DNP: DE Olivier Vernon (abdomen), DE Adrian Clayborn (hip), LB Jacob Phillips (knee); LIMITED: CB Denzel Ward (groin), C JC Tretter (knee), CB Greedy Williams (shoulder), LB Mack Wilson (knee); FULL: RT Jack Conklin (ankle/finger), CB Kevin Johnson (liver), TE Stephen Carlson (shoulder), WR Jarvis Landry (hip), LB Sione Takitaki (shoulder)