Out of touch: OBJ not getting ball enough so far for Browns
By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — A frequent target of critics, Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t in quarterback Baker Mayfield’s sights these days.
And while Beckham doesn’t mind blocking or being used as a decoy or doing whatever’s necessary to help the Browns win, the polarizing star receiver is a playmaker.
To do that, he needs the ball.
OBJ’s not getting his touches.
“I can’t sit here and lie and be like I don’t want the ball. They don’t pay James Harden for defense, “ he said, referring to Brooklyn’s prolific guard. “He’s a shooter, and I feel like I’m a shooter.”
So far, he’s not getting his shot.
Beckham, who has played three games this season after coming back from knee surgery, caught just two passes for 27 yards in last Sunday’s 47-42 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Beckham dropped an early pass on fourth down, but the speedster wasn’t a factor down the stretch as the Browns (3-2) tried to rally in a game where it felt as if the team that had the ball last would win.
But even on Cleveland’s final play, a desperation heave to the end zone, Beckham was conspicuously absent as one of the three receivers flooding to the right side and designated to catch the heave.
Beckham was on the left. And, it’s not a stretch to say he’s been left out.
For whatever reason, and there appear to be many, Beckham, who has nine catches for 124 yards and no touchdowns in 2021, isn’t putting up the gaudy numbers he’s accustomed to getting.
He’s been targeted on just 19 passes, and Beckham and Mayfield appear to still be having chemistry issues, a narrative they’ve both downplayed, but one that seems more relevant with each passing game.
Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt agreed that Beckham needs to be more involved in the game plan.
“Yeah, he needs to touch the ball,” Van Pelt said before Thursday’s practice as the Browns prepared for the Arizona Cardinals (5-0). “He’s a good player, and finding ways to get him the ball is important to all of us. He does so much for us.”
On Sunday, Beckham drew triple-coverage on one route, allowing Rashard Higgins to get open and catch a TD pass.
Beckham then joined his other teammates in celebrating with Higgins, who pretended to be strutting down a red carpet surrounded by paparazzi. That’s more Beckham’s style, but he’s currently in a supporting role on a team loaded with offensive talent.
And, he’s fine with that.
“The ultimate goal is a championship and I feel like I’m in a great situation to do that,” said Beckham, who came to the Browns from the Giants in a 2019 trade. “There’s gonna be games where it will be my day. I’ll be sitting up here and the conversations will be different.”
Beckham hasn’t been a distraction. In fact, he’s been a consummate teammate, according to coaches and guard Joel Bitonio, one of the team’s most respected players.
Although he might not be scoring or making dazzling plays, Beckham’s overall performance hasn’t suffered.
“I don’t talk to him about targets or anything like that, but I just know his run blocking has been pretty up there,” Bitonio said. “He’s running hard to get other guys open, all the things that don’t show up in a box score. But the way he plays the game, he’s playing hard, so I don’t think it’s had really any effect.”
Beckham knows he’s not perfect. Famous for making sensational, one-handed grabs, the three-time Pro Bowler dropped a pass from Mayfield last week that would have hit between the 1 and 3 on his jersey.
“I wish we could have it back,” he said. “From a pride standpoint my goal was to not drop anything this year and then you got that little blemish. “I always joke all the time, but my hands are like Purell — 99.9% (effective).”
At 28, and after dealing with injuries over the past few seasons, Beckham insists he’s in a great place mentally. He’s found peace in Cleveland and believes the Browns are his best chance at winning a title.
The trade rumors won’t go away and his contract will be up in two years. However, Beckham isn’t focused on anything but the here and now.
“Where I’m at. Where my feet are at,” he said looking down at his white socks and green slides. “Be where your feet are at.”
And maybe get a shot.
NOTES: DEs Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley all practiced after missing one day. … Starting tackles Jack Conklin (knee) and Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) remained out and could miss this week’s game. … Star RB Nick Chubb (calf) was presumably getting treatment and not working to the side during the portion open to reporters. … CB Denzel Ward (neck) told reporters he expects to play while rookie CB Greg Newsome II (calf) wasn’t sure. The first-round pick has missed the past two days.
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