3 players the Cleveland Browns cannot lose to injury in 2021
2. Odell Beckham Jr.
Fans can blame the defense all they want (and there is deserved blame there; the front office has addressed those issues), but the cold, hard fact is that if the Kansas City Chiefs score 22 points against you, you’d better have won that game. The performance put up by the Cleveland offense was pathetic. Against a defense with minimal pass rush outside of Chris Jones, and with a middling secondary aside from Tyrann Mathieu, the Browns managed just 17 points.
There were mitigating circumstances; a game-changing blown call took six points off the board and the team was down to its fourth-string left tackle, but they had their chances, and even if that Rashard Higgins touchdown counted, 23 points are rarely enough to defeat Patrick Mahomes, who played more or less half the game.
Kansas City, with a defense that doesn’t exactly strike fear into opponents, sold out to stop the run, completely ignoring the threat of the pass, even with Baker Mayfield playing at a league-best level. Jarvis Landry turned his 10 targets into seven catches for 20 yards. That just cannot happen.
There was no threat of a downfield play, and Mayfield had to thread the needle on practically every attempt; the difference in the level of difficulty on throws between Mayfield and Mahomes/Chad Henne was drastic and unacceptable.
Odell Beckham Jr. changes things, perhaps everything. Statistically, he hasn’t been the same dominant player since 2016, but no one told him that in 2020. In the games he did play in, he ran wild, creating separation at will, even against elite secondaries, and practically single-handedly beat the Dallas Cowboys. The fact that his time on the field coincided with Mayfield’s struggles was merely coincidental, a result of minimal offseason and preseason work and an adjustment to a brand-new offensive system.
With Beckham on the field, the Chiefs will not be able to afford to stick in cover-1 press-man, because Beckham has the ability to win deep and clear out the underneath for teammates when he isn’t being targeted. No one else in the wide receiver room has the ability (or has proven the ability) to do what Beckham does.
Another injury to Beckham means the Browns 2021 season could end just like their 2020 campaign did; losing a game they should have won because they couldn’t throw the ball. Perhaps it would have been wise for Cleveland to not be in a position where they are pinning their Super Bowl hopes on an oft-injured player, but alas.