The Cleveland Browns are coming off a massive week 7 win against their in-state rival Cincinnati Bengals. However, the win came at a cost. Superstar wideout Odell Beckham went down with a confirmed torn ACL, and will remain out for the remainder of 2020.
Beckham hurt himself attempting to make a tackle on a Baker Mayfield interception early on in the first quarter. Mayfield started the game zero-for-five, but came to life after Beckham went down. Mayfield went on to complete 22/28 passes for 297 yards and five touchdown passes, three coming in a wild fourth quarter.
Though the Browns are 5-2, they are going to have to adjust to life without Odell Beckham. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and his Cleveland Browns face a daunting challenge, but there are ways to defeat it.
Three Ways the Browns Can Adapt To Life Without Odell Beckham
1. Continue To Win in the Trenches on Offense
Cleveland’s offensive line has been brilliant for most of 2020. Offensive Line coach Bill Callahan has completely turned this unit around after a dismal 2019. Wyatt Teller, though hurt, has been one of the NFL’s very best offensive linemen through seven weeks. The run game is finding success even without Nick Chubb thanks to the schemes and effort of the offensive line. Kareem Hunt has been brilliant as the lead back in Chubb’s absence.
In order to succeed without Beckham on the field, the offensive line has to continue its hot streak. Baker Mayfield needs clean pockets to throw from, and the running backs need holes to gash. Mayfield is at his best in the play-action, and that requires an extra split second of blocking from the line. If Teller comes back soon and the rest of the line continues to dominate, there is no reason the Browns can’t sustain this run of success into a playoff push.
2. Continue To Force Turnovers
Though Cleveland has the NFL’s fourth worst defense in points scored against, they are staying afloat due to the influx of turnovers they force. They lead the NFL with 14 takeaways through seven games, and are fourth in turnover differential at +5. This needs to continue in order for the Browns to win.
Myles Garrett is the Defensive Player of the Year so far. He leads the NFL with nine sacks and four fumbles forced. He also forced a safety against the Indianapolis Colts in week 5 to help Cleveland improve to 5-1.
Terrance Mitchell dropped a sure interception against the Bengals last week, which would have essentially sealed the win and alleviated a lot of stress. No harm, no foul in this case, but those are the ones the Browns need to come up with to afford the offense as many opportunities as possible week in and week out.
It doesn’t seem as though the Browns are capable of holding teams below 30 points. This is manageable only because they’re also forcing two turnovers per game. This needs to continue, or Cleveland could be in deep trouble.
3. Keep Baker Mayfield Comfortable
We saw Baker Mayfield at his absolute best on Sunday. He was decisive, strong in the pocket and made throws that only Browns pass-catchers could get to. He was able to do this because of brilliant route patterns from Kevin Stefanski and confidence in his pass-catchers.
Rashard Higgins has been an anomaly for Cleveland. In 2018, he was a security blanket for then-rookie Mayfield. Then, in 2019 and the first part of this season, he couldn’t find the field. However, over the last two weeks, he’s amassed 7 catches on 8 targets for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Mayfield is clearly comfortable targeting Higgins. He trusts Higgins in important situations, and seems to place the ball better when targeting him than anybody else.
If Mayfield is comfortable, the Browns are headed for a bright future. Like it or not, Cleveland’s offense rides on his shoulders. The tight end group for Cleveland looks special. Rookie Harrison Bryant looks like a fourth round steal, David Njoku flashes at times and Austin Hooper is as sure handed as they come. Cleveland must simplify its offense, get its available weapons involved and make life easy for Mayfield as the signal caller.
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