The Cleveland Browns placed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on the injured reserve list on Monday.
Beckham suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the second play of Sunday’s win against the Cincinnati Bengals, and will now miss the rest of the season as he begins a rehab program that generally takes between nine and 12 months.
With Beckham out of the lineup for the nine games left on the schedule, the inevitable question has come up: are the Browns better or worse without Beckham on the field?
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who has been best friends with Beckham since their high school days in Louisiana, told the “Bull and Fox” show on 92.3 The Fan on Tuesday that there is no doubt the Browns will miss Beckham (quote via The Beacon Journal):
“I would say that’s not true at all. I think a lot of our offense has been solely based on having Odell on the field. And a lot of the things that have opened up for us as an offense has been because of the threat that he is. Now we’ve just got to find a way to adapt and adjust and make plays.”
Landry certainly has a point as Beckham has made the Pro Bowl three times and surpassed 1,000 receiving yards five times in his seven years in the NFL.
Not everyone shares Landry’s opinion, however.
Tuesday on something called “Get Up!” on ESPN, analyst Greg McElroy said that not having to worry about getting the ball to Beckham will benefit the Browns (quote via cleveland.com):
“Baker Mayfield has two more interceptions when targeting Odell Beckham Jr. than he does touchdowns. Do you realize Baker Mayfield is completing almost 80 percent of his passes when not throwing it at Odell Beckham? (Mayfield’s) a better player when he’s not having to talk Odell Beckham off the ledge trying to get him his looks and his touches.”
So where does the truth reside in this debate? Let’s start with Mayfield’s raw numbers.
In 15 career game without Beckham*, Mayfield has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 4,022 yards, 32 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Browns are 8-7 in those games. (*Sunday’s game against the Bengals is included here since Beckham was only on the field for two plays before he was injured.)
In 22 games with Beckham, Mayfield has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 4,922 yards, 32 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. The Browns are 10-12 in those games.
Now, it should be pointed out that 16 of those games with Beckham came with Freddie Kitchens as head coach, a period when the Browns were a mess on offense. But, if we’re going to highlight that, it is only fair to remind everyone that six of the 15 games without Beckham came with Hue Jackson - the worst head coach in NFL history - involved in the offense.
There is also the argument that Beckham as a deep threat opens things up for the running game. So let’s take a look at what Nick Chubb has accomplished.
In 16 career games without Beckham, Chubb averaged 5.2 yards per carry, 62.3 yards per game and scored eight touchdowns. Of course, you have factor in the Hue Jackson tax for those games, as Chubb only had 16 carries in his first six games as a rookie despite rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.
In 20 games with Beckham, Chubb has averaged 5.15 yards per carry, 91.45 yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns. If that enough of a difference to support the argument that Beckham “opens up the defense”? Maybe.
What about scoring points, which is the entire purpose of an offense?
Without Beckham, the Browns are averaging 23.6 points per game, with Beckham it is 22.6 points per game.
So what is the final answer here? Are the Browns better or worse without Beckham on the field?
The numbers make it look like a wash, despite the talent the Beckham brings to the field. So the answer may come down to where fans fall on the overall discussion about Beckham as a player in 2020.
If you believe he is an unstoppable force that causes opposing defenses to alter their game plans, then he will be sorely missed.
If you believe he is a talented player that has not always connected with Mayfield for whatever reason, then the Browns will be OK without him.
The only certainty is that the Browns will be without Beckham for the rest of the season, so we will have nine games to truly see if the offense can survive without him in the lineup.