Numbers say Browns have given Odell Beckham, Jr. on-field opportunities

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns attempts to catch a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns attempts to catch a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

A deep dive into Odell Beckham, Jr.’s numbers suggest that the team has indeed tried to help him succeed, and maybe they have tried too hard.

Odell Beckham, Jr., who is about to be formerly a member of the Cleveland Browns, aided and abetted by his non-very-helpful father, has managed to make quite a mess of things off the field, and the numbers tell a similar story on the field.

Presumably, Beckham, Sr. wants the best for his son, and yet his actions are dialing up the absolute worst for his son. He may not have ruined his career, but he has ruined his son’s season and severely damaged his already controversial reputation.

What do you think is going to happen? Was head coach Kevin Stefanski supposed to say, “Golly, Mr. Beckham, thanks for pointing that out! I’ll punish Baker Mayfield immediately and get a new quarterback who will throw to your darling son early and often!”

This fan has consistently supported OBJ because of his desire to win, and tremendous athletic ability. I cut him some slack for playing with significant injuries in 2019 and now in 2021. But no longer. I’m embarrassed for OBJ, his dad, and I’m embarrassed I stood up for this chronic underachieving complainer.

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Beckham, Jr.’s lack of support for the hurting quarterback and his attempt to undermine the entire team has got me no longer seeing brown and orange. Man, I’m seeing red.

If he’s not going to cut the quarterback any slack for playing with a torn labrum and a bleeping harness that contributes to some poor throws, then I do not see why OBJ deserves any slack for when the ball hits him in the hands on fourth down and he cannot make the catch.

Or if the ball hits him in the side as it did in Denver without him making an attempt to catch the ball, the eyeball test says his fundamentals are just poor.

The numbers tell a similar story. To make a long story short, the Browns tried early on, probably too hard, to help him succeed on his own terms. The result has been to make a mildly concerning situation escalate into a crisis.

In OBJ’s first game against Chicago, the coaching staff couldn’t get enough of him as he led the wide receivers in total snaps played. Mayfield targeted OBJ nine times, while all other wide receivers combined were targeted only five times. That’s a ridiculous ratio. Either the game plan was dysfunctional or the play calling was off-kilter or the quarterback’s execution was flawed.

The net result was that they were trying too hard to get OBJ the ball. The trend is clear and unambiguous.

This analyst believes that in reviewing the stats and game film, the coaching staff obviously realized their error and tried to fix it for Minnesota the next week. In that game, they were successful in getting Rashard Higgins and OBJ equally involved in targets.

However, that game was marred by Mayfield consistently overthrowing OBJ. Even though Mayfield’s damaged shoulder is the non-throwing shoulder, putting his body in a harness has to impede his throwing motion.

Plus he is still on a 50-sack per year pace which is guaranteed to screw up his body in more than one way. In any case, Mayfield was not an accurate passer in that game, and although he has learned to compensate for the dang harness somewhat he isn’t as good as he was before the injury. He just is not.

That does not mean we have to take the quarterback behind the barn and shoot him to put him out of his misery. He can still play, but not quite at the level as when he is 100%. Hey, it’s the NFL. People play hurt, with injuries that stop normal people in their tracks. There is no reason for anyone to question Mayfield’s heart, yet there is no reason to assume that there is zero effect on his play.

Anyway, according to Pro Football Focus, the average targeting depth to OBJ v was 22.9 yards, suggesting that Mayfield was too intent on throwing the deep ball to his star receiver. This fan wrote at the time that OBJ was becoming a high-class Sammy Coates.

Coates was a wide receiver for the Steelers and Browns whose specialty was running straight down the field looking for the bomb. Sammy was a good enough receiver, but he was not an every-down receiver. Somebody, either Stefanski, Van Pelt, or Mayfield, was intent on connecting with the bomb to OBJ, and the result was several misses and a drop and only two completions in seven targets.

Another troubling stat was that they were excluding talented Donovan Peoples-Jones because they were so intent on throwing bombs to OBJ. This author blasted the Browns for this poor decision-making.

So, once again, we followed along with the coaching staff. Sure enough, they tried to fix that against the Los Angeles Chargers by making sure to throw some short passes to Beckham early. Great concept guys, although the former All-Pro bobbled one that he should have easily caught.

In those two games, OBJ was targeted 16 times in 114 snaps, DPJ only twice in 99 times. This writer complained loudly about this.

They got this fixed in the next two games with DPJ grabbing nine balls in 11 targets for 171 yards. Unfortunately, Peoples-Jones somehow managed to injure himself warming up, which is another cause for great concern and anger although we can not be sure whether this is is a bad procedure for warming up (coach’s bad), fluke (God’s bad) or DPJ did something wrong somehow (DPJ’s bad).

In any case, the concerns about DPJ’s ability should be completely erased, although injury proneness and durability issues are legitimate concerns.

During the past three weeks, OBJ has gone seven for 14 targets for 102 yards. Those are good numbers for a third receiver, but nothing about them suggests OBJ is an All-Pro.

Overall, despite injuries that caused him to miss one game and limited him in one game, Beckham leads the wide receiver’s room with 290 snaps out of 540 total snaps through eight games (53.7%). He also leads all Browns wide receivers in targets with 34 but has caught the ball only 17 times, for a catch percentage of 50%.

By contrast, Peoples-Jones has 287 snaps (53.1%) and has been targeted only 15 times. DPJ, however, has caught 13 of those balls for a catch percentage of 86.7%.

Jarvis Landry catches 66.7% of the passes thrown his way (16 catches in 24 attempts; 144 snaps). Rashard Higgins hauls in Bakers passes 56% of the time on 15 of 24 in 274 snaps. Only 21-year-old rookie Demetric Felton at 46.7% has a lower catch percentage than OBJ (7 for 16 in 102 snaps). Felton is just a rookie and is learning how to shave and stuff. OBJ is supposed to be better.

You don’t have to look any further than that to understand why Baker is throwing less to OBJ and more to Peoples-Jones, Landry, and the other wideouts. OBJ’s fundamental skills have diminished.

This fan is reminded about basic training in the Air Force when cadets complained that the officers made us lace our shoes exactly the same way, right over left, right over left, right over left, right over left. Why so particular? “Well, cadet, how can we trust you to fly a million-dollar machine carrying nuclear weapons if we cannot trust you to tie your shoes?”

The numbers say that OBJ could not be trusted to catch short, catchable passes, especially on fourth down when he was needed. The Browns wanted OBJ to earn their trust by catching the short passes. OBJ wanted to argue his way into trust by having his dad air an embarrassing video of the quarterback. This may be a way of hiding the loss of proficiency of the basics of his profession.

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Simply put, he dropped too many catchable balls, and he failed when he was needed. It’s easier for him to blame someone else rather than face the truth.