Cleveland Browns: What’s up with the wide receiver room?

BEREA, OHIO - JULY 30: Wide receiver Jarvis Landry #80 and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns watch from the sidelines during Cleveland Browns Training Camp on July 30, 2021 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
BEREA, OHIO - JULY 30: Wide receiver Jarvis Landry #80 and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns watch from the sidelines during Cleveland Browns Training Camp on July 30, 2021 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns spend the second-most money in the NFL for the wide receiver position, yet the stats don’t equal the spending.

Entering the 2021 season, the hype was real for the Cleveland Browns to be a Super Bowl threat. After eight games, the team sits at 4-4, but have far too many questions to answer if they want to bounce back.

How much is Baker Mayfield’s shoulder really affecting his play?

Can Mayfield and his receivers ever get in sync and on the same page?

What on earth is the issue on fourth down?

Who’s to blame?

Can the defense get off the field on third down?

All are very valid questions the Browns must answer in order to keep the season from completely falling off the rails. The question of the week, however, is what is up with the wide receiver room?

As noted above, the Browns spend the second-most on their WR room at $34.5 million. Only the Miami Dolphins spend more than the Browns.

The highest-paid receiver on the team is Odell Beckham, but at this point, it is safe to say that the Odell Beckham Jr. experiment in Cleveland has been a failure and his release feels imminent (may have happened before you even read this).

Before this goes any further, Beckham has showed that he is being a great teammate, despite some people on the bird app trying to grade his body language. Come on, body language? Really? Do better.

As for on-the-field play, Beckham and Mayfield just don’t have the chemistry many thought they would entering this season after OBJ missed half of last season and the first two games of this season with an ACL injury. Speaking of injury, Beckham has been banged up ever since getting to Cleveland with a bevy of injuries.

For whatever reason, Mayfield seems to play better without Beckham in the lineup. When Beckham is on the field it’s either he is forcing the ball to Beckham or isn’t going to him enough. Now, it’s not entirely on Mayfield as Beckham has had some crucial drops this season. One person who does think it’s on Baker is Odell Beckham Sr.

On Tuesday morning, Beckham Sr. posted an 11-minute video on Instagram show how many times Baker has either missed OBJ or not looked his way. While it wasn’t Jr. who made the video and posted it, it’s hard to believe he didn’t know about it or doesn’t share the same sentiment.

As you can probably imagine, Twitter had a field day with all of this. LeBron James even chimed in with the hashtag #FreeOBJ. 

Beckham is getting paid nearly $16 million to essentially be a glorified blocker, despite still getting open. So, is Baker just not seeing him? Is he not trusting himself to complete the pass? Is he not trusting Beckham to reel in the pass? Both players are to blame for this no matter which way you look at it.

Another area to point blame is the play calling, something head coach Kevin Stefanski will tell you he needs to do a better job of. It’s getting to the point where after every game, we hear “I have to do a better job calling plays and putting guys in a position to succeed.” This is sounding a lot like “I have to look at the tape.” Can the reigning NFL Coach of the Year pull it together and put his team in positions to succeed or will this be a year similar to 2019 (pre-Stefanski)?

Does Stefanski trust Baker to make the throws with his injured, non-throwing shoulder? We have not seen as many play-action passes called this season, and that is where Mayfield thrived a season ago. Let Baker be the gunslinger he is, thus making everyone happy.

Some thought that Beckham would be in consideration for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, but so far, his numbers are far from that. He has 17 receptions on 34 targets for 232 yards. Even on the plays he makes, it seems as if he is timid or trying not to get hit, almost like he’s scared to get injured again. It should be noted yet again that Beckham is open a lot of the time, but for whatever reason, Mayfield is just not seeing him.

There was a lot of speculation on whether or not the Browns would trade Beckham before the November 2 trade deadline, but that was not the case.

Now that we have discussed Mr. Beckham, let’s pivot to his best friend, Jarvis Landry.

On the season Landry has caught 16 passes for 182 yards. That’s not great, but he did miss three games with a knee injury. A stint on the IR hampered a portion of his season, so his numbers not being what we expect isn’t as bad.

With that said, what is bad is how he performed last Sunday against the Steelers, especially in the fourth quarter. Landry had a first down with the Browns driving down the field, looking to take the lead, but then fumbled the ball away to Pittsburgh.

Luckily for Landry, the Steelers punted the ball back to Cleveland, giving the Browns one last chance at a win. Yet again, Mayfield was making the right throws including a fourth-and-12 throw to Landry that would’ve been good enough for a first down. However, Landry dropped his second pass of the game, thus turning the ball over on downs.

Landry makes way too much money for a performance like that, especially when his quarterback did everything he could to lead his team to a victory over the rival Steelers. He did take ownership of his blunders after the game. 

The Browns dropped a total of six passes in the loss to Pittsburgh. What’s up with that?

Rashard Higgins, who had a great year with Mayfield in 2020, has just 14 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. Donovan Peoples-Jones, who showed in training camp that he was ready to take the next step in Year 2, has 13 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Schwartz, who was drafted in the third round with the idea the Browns could use his elite speed to open up opposing defenses, has contributed seven catches for 102 yards.

Peoples-Jones and Schwartz have been bitten by the injury bug, which seemingly so has the rest of the team in some capacity. Higgins had a crucial false start penalty two plays before the Landry drop and he also had a drop earlier in the game.

At the end of the day, the second-highest paid wide receiver room needs to play better. This falls on the quarterback, all of the wideouts, and the head coach.

The Cleveland Browns are a 4-4 football team with nine games remaining. This Sunday they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a game that is must-win in order to gain a game back in the AFC North standings. We will see exactly what this team is made of on Sunday.

Next. Cleveland Browns: Battle of Ohio is the turning point in the season. dark

At the end of the day, all of the problems the Browns are facing can be solved with two simple solutions; execution and winning.