One of the narratives that followed the Browns throughout last season was that their offense improved after receiver Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
Cleveland’s coaches and players countered that by arguing the offense was on track to improve regardless, as the team’s new coaching staff got more familiar with its personnel. Plus, the club did not have the benefit of an in-person offseason program to implement the new scheme.
But head coach Kevin Stefanski, quarterback Baker Mayfield, and fellow receiver Jarvis Landry have all said recently that Beckham looks good coming off the injury. On Thursday, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said the same, while again swatting away the notion that Cleveland was better off without Beckham.
“Baker was better as the season went on, whether there had been Odell or not still out there,” Van Pelt said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “He started to understand the offense more, understand what we were asking him, got his footwork right and I think he got better, regardless of who was on the field.
“You’re always better with great players. Anytime you take a great player off the field, you’re going to have to find ways to generate more offense. We’ll be better with Odell, no doubt.”
Still, Mayfield’s stats improved following his first pass in Week Seven — an interception on a ball intended for Beckham. That was the same play the receiver injured his knee.
Mayfield threw 16 TDs and just one pick following that pass. His passer rating through Week Six was 84.3, 26th in the league. From Week 7 on, his passer rating was 102.1, ranking No. 9.
“[Beckham is] an elite player and not having him out there, we had to fight and claw to continue to have offensive success,” Van Pelt said. “I know it is a lot easier when you have great players.
“Anytime you can add a dominate athlete back on the field in your offense, it is only going to help us.”
Beckham had 23 catches for 319 yards with three touchdowns in seven games for the Browns last year. The three-time Pro Bowler has 97 receptions for 1,354 yards and seven TDs in two seasons with Cleveland.