The Cleveland Browns were supposed to have a breakout year after acquiring a massive influx of talent to help out second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield. Arguably the shining jewel of the new collection was star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and, as expected, OBJ leads the team in receptions with 39. That’s not that many. The Browns have been struggling and the passing game has been a glaring problem for a duo that was supposed to be lighting the league up. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.
Both OBJ and Jarvis Landry (BOOOOOO) have had 67 targets this year. Landry is slightly behind in receptions with 36. That puts both of their catch rate below 60%. OBJ sits at 58% and Landry at 54%. We’ll come back to that. To compare to a known commodity, Cole Beasley has 35 receptions and John Brown has 41. In catches, both teams’ top two receivers are pretty equivalent. Remember how ticked off we’ve been at the Buffalo Bills offense. A quick glance doesn’t paint the Browns in a better light.
Anyway, back to the clip. A simple reason for some of Cleveland’s passing woes is that opponents plan to take away their top targets. This play really highlights how much more worried about OBJ the Baltimore Ravens were than other targets.
If you’ve read enough of my analysis you know I think of catch rate as the closest thing to measuring chemistry between a receiver and his quarterback. Sub 60% is not great and that suggests there’s an issue between the duo of Baker Mayfield and OBJ. For this play, when Mayfield is starting the windup the ball should actually be coming out. With the pass already a touch late, the pump fake makes things worse. By the time he decides to throw, the defender has plenty of time to get back in and break the play up.
Timing and trust don’t seem to be fully developed between the pair and plays like this weren’t uncommon to see. These are the kinds of things that negatively impact catch rate and reflect chemistry. Since we’ve already brought them up as comparisons, Cole Beasley’s catch rate is 64% and John Brown’s is 70%. To picture the Mayfield/OBJ/Landry chemistry, just imagine if Josh Allen had thrown a couple extra incompletions per game for the heck of it.
Lack of chemistry does NOT mean lack of talent, however. The hesitation move to come back for the ball is pretty fun to watch. This is why the Browns wanted OBJ and why a lot of other teams want someone like him. It’s possible the above is how this was drawn up. At the least there’s some contortion from Beckham that makes the catch easier. It’s also possible he’s bailing out his quarterback a bit.
Odell Beckham Jr. is known for highlight-reel catches. A primary reason that the catch rate and overall production is lower than desired is that Baker Mayfield seems determined to give OBJ plenty of opportunities for those incredible catches. As you can see in the clip, that also increases the number of tipped passes and drops.
This was such an odd sequence I had to capture it. It’s also a great overview of what’s been troubling the Mayfield-Beckham Jr. connection. The GIF is doing most of the analysis so I’ll simply summarize and say that either Mayfield’s accuracy is much like a blunderbuss, or that there’s chemistry issues.
It sounds like I’m discrediting the pair as a threat to the Bills and that would be a grave mischaracterization. While there are some flaws to be sure, OBJ is kinda known for plays like this. He didn’t forget how to play football and he hasn’t thrown in any towels either. Beckham is evenly matched when it comes to height versus the Bills’ corners but isn’t afraid to create mid-air collisions to make himself taller.
Baker Mayfield is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 12. Throws such as this one make it easy to see why. Add in tipped balls like we see a couple times above and disaster can be lurking at every corner. Against OBJ there aren’t a lot of gimmes though. Whether he’s fighting for the ball or pulling a miracle catch out of the air, it only takes one or two of these to turn the tide in a game.
Finally, when there is a rare glimpse at chemistry you can see a lot of potential. This kind of play can make an opponent miserable as they waltz down the field one chunk at a time.
The Baker Mayfield-Odell Beckham Jr. connection needs to be accounted for but is not as dangerous as the Browns were hoping for when they brought in Beckham. A sophomore slump from Mayfield and underdeveloped chemistry between the two has led to some underwhelming production. Beckham has only one touchdown this year, for instance.
Looking to prevent their losing streak from reaching five games, the Browns may try any number of tactics to pull out a victory. If they don’t come up with a good answer for the Buffalo defense, the Mayfield-Beckham Jr. connection might be one the Bills can find success against.