The Cleveland Browns entered the 2019 season as arguably the league’s most-hyped team, but very little went right after the first offensive series of the season.
A major contributor was the season-long struggles by an offense that was plagued by poor game plans, penalties, sub-par play at both tackle positions and right guard, and injuries to starting wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry that limited their effectiveness, most notably in the case of Beckham.
After coming over from the New York Giants in an offseason trade that helped kick off the hype, a core muscle injury limited Beckham’s availability in practice and he was never able to click with quarterback Baker Mayfield in the way that many expected.
Last year #Browns OBJ posted career lows in grade (68.7), passer rating when targeted (70.5) & yards per route run (1.81).— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) August 6, 2020
If he returns to 100% & Baker Mayfield can reach the same heights he did as a rookie, a bounce-back year is likely⬇️https://t.co/gVkYa4SFyH
Despite that, Beckham still played all 16 games and posted the fifth 1,000-yard receiving season in his career. His 74 receptions, however, were the fewest in a season where he played at least 12 games, and his 64.7 yards per game average and 55.6 percent catch rate were also career lows.
Offseason surgery fixed the injury, the hiring of head coach Kevin Stefanski should fix the play calling woes, and the additions of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. addressed the deficiencies at the tackle position.
When you take all that into account, it is understandable why Pro Football Focus, in collaboration with ESPN, selected Beckham as a prime candidate for a bounce-back seasin in 2020:
What went wrong: Beckham’s first year in Cleveland couldn’t have gone much worse. He wasn’t fully healthy, and the connection with quarterback Baker Mayfield just wasn’t there. After grading above 88.0 in four of the first five years of his career, Beckham slipped to a career-low grade in 2019 to go with career lows in passer rating when targeted (70.5) and yards per route run (1.81). In addition, he also saw a total of 16 QB-fault incompletions on deep passes, four more than any other wideout last year. If Beckham returns to 100% and Mayfield can reach the same heights he did as a rookie in 2018, a bounce-back year is likely. — PFF
Outlook for 2020: OBJ was hampered by a sports hernia injury all season and struggled to consistently get targets in Freddie Kitchens’ offense. Now, Beckham is finally healthy again after undergoing offseason surgery. And though the Browns figure to be a running team under new coach Kevin Stefanski, he should get plenty of favorable opportunities to make big plays downfield, especially on play-action passes. — Jake Trotter
A return to health might be enough for Beckham to get back on track in 2020. With the talent the Browns have put together on offense, they do not need Beckham to be the focal point every week, which will open up numerous chances for him to make a big-play.
If that happens, then the Browns will finally get to see the Beckham that everyone was looking forward to a year ago.