After big time injuries, it's tempting to look for the glass-half-full perspectives that give a team and a fan base as much hope as possible. We heard theories after Dak Prescott's injury that the Cowboys offense would be able to run smoothly, as it was built behind a strong line and with a stud running back, Ezekiel Elliott, ready to carry the load. We've seen how that has worked out so far.
We've heard the same thing about the Cleveland Browns offense following Odell Beckham Jr.'s season-ending ACL tear. Baker Mayfield looked great following Beckham's injury, which came after Mayfield threw an interception while targeting OBJ on his very first throw of the game. Not everyone is ready to credit Mayfield's five-touchdown performance beyond that mistake to Beckham's absence — in fact, most people probably aren't, including 92.3 The Fan's Browns beat reported Daryl Ruiter.
Many other analysts have weighed in, including ESPN's Greg McElroy, who thinks Mayfield will be much better off without OBJ. On the other hand, his fellow analyst, Jeff Saturday, thinks it's only going to hurt Mayfield.
But how about the guy who is on the field defending against offenses and star receivers like Beckham Jr. week in and week out? On the latest episode of "The Cris Collinsworth Podcast," star cornerback Richard Sherman gave his take on the matter, comparing it to how the Panthers offense opened up once Christian McCaffrey went down to injury.
"The same is true with Odell," Sherman said. "When Odell is out there... we cloud him, we bracket him, we run two-man, we double him, we do whatever we can to take him away, and then we play defense everywhere else. And they still are gonna try to force him the ball."
However, when Beckham got removed from the equation in the middle of the game against the Bengals, Sherman explained that everything they had prepped for was no longer applicable. Who do they double team now? Who is the ball most likely to go to? Is Mayfield more likely to go to Jarvis Landry or either of his tight ends?
"You kind of have to play it honest," Sherman said. "You can't double anybody. It almost screws you in the middle of the game, because your game plan (was) to shape your defense a certain way."
But Sherman not only sees it as a temporary boost to the Browns offense that helped them against a disoriented Bengals defense. He thinks that it might help Baker Mayfield and the offense out going forward, at least in terms of Mayfield's development and appropriate operation of the offensive system.
"I think it helps Baker mentally to say, hey, look at the play, digest what you got and take what the coverage gives you," Sherman explained. "Not, hey, you know the coverage but you better get the ball to Odell on this play, we need to feed him the ball.
"You don't have to do that. And I think that when you don't have to do that, it changes the dynamic and it makes him and the offense more efficient."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Browns have so many other weapons on the offense outside of Beckham. Aside from the aforementioned Jarvis Landry, Week 8 saw breakout performances from rookie tight end Harrison Bryant and wide receiver Rashard Higgins, while tight end Austin Hooper will hopefully return from an appendectomy soon. There's also pass-catching specialist Kareem Hunt and the soon-to-return star Nick Chubb. If the same were to happen to, say, Allen Robinson of the Chicago Bears, the lack of other standout targets might really, really hurt.
But as far as the Browns are concerned, Richard Sherman doesn't necessarily see the devastating OBJ injury as too big a hindrance to what this team can do on the offensive side going forward.