All was well. Beckham drew safety attention from the Ravens, allowing Jarvis Landry to run wild with 167 receiving yards as Cleveland got on track with a win over a division rival.
On Monday, Beckham again caught two passes, this time for 27 yards in a 31-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
All most certainly was not well. The Browns dropped to 2-3 with the ugly loss and were exposed as a considerably lesser team than the one that entered the season with a tremendous amount of hype.
And the most talented player on the team barely touched the ball for a second straight week. Even when things were bad with the New York Giants — and things got bad — Beckham was still getting touches.
Losing and not getting touches amounts to an untenable situation. Beckham said as much at Browns practice on Thursday, though in a measured tone.
“Anytime we lose, and I don’t feel like I did anything to help win the game, I’m gonna be frustrated,” Beckham said. “It’s just the bottom line. I'm a winner in my heart, and I hate losing.”
Don’t blame OBJ
Beckham isn’t the problem in Cleveland. He’s still the other-worldly talent who became a star in New York. Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot points out that Beckham had only one game in 59 with the Giants where he didn’t catch more than two passes. Now he’s done so on two consecutive outings in Cleveland.
No, the problem in Cleveland can be laid squarely on head coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Kitchens recognizes problem, won’t fix it
Kitchens admitted after a Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams that play-calling issues were “my fault.” The rookie head coach also refused to hand them off to offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
“Not going to happen,” Kitchens said. “It's me. It's my fault. Todd does a great job. Todd does a great job during the course of the week of making sure we stay on task. We stay organized and all that kind of stuff. But when things mess up it's going to be me.”
OK. So it’s on Kitchens. A coach who all but admits he’s out of his depth when everybody watching the team agrees with him and then does nothing to inspire change can be described only as stubborn.
Stubborn Kitchens has added up to four catches for 47 yards for Beckham and one embarrassing prime-time loss over the course of two games.
Jarvis Landry calls out play-calling
Landry, a long-time friend of Beckham’s from their days together at LSU, all but called out Kitchens by name Thursday for not doing enough to get Beckham the ball.
“I’m not calling plays or designing anything,’’ Landry said Thursday, per Cleveland.com. “But at the end of the day, obviously he’s a key part of our offense whether the ball’s in his hands or not. The way that it’s been going, we haven’t really been making enough plays without him touching the ball.”
Mayfield deserves blame too
Of course Mayfield is not without blame. The second-year quarterback has taken a significant step back this season after a rookie year that left him all but christened as the long-awaited answer in Cleveland under center.
Through five games, Mayfield has completed 55.9 percent of his passes while throwing eight interceptions and four touchdowns. That’s not a sophomore slump. Those are numbers that will get a quarterback benched over the long run.
Mayfield has struggled behind an offensive line that didn’t get the same personnel upgrades Cleveland’s skill positions have the past two offseasons and has drawn criticism for improvising and not sticking to his progressions when under pressure.
Landry had insight on that front as well Thursday, again without naming names.
“At the end of the day, as a receiver a lot of our success doesn’t come solely from us,” Landry said. “A lot comes from being able to protect the quarterback, being able to get the snap, being able to drop back and read it. So you just can’t pinpoint one thing whether it’s the calls or the progression. We need to find a way to get better at it.”
Mayfield addressed the subject as well on Thursday.
“It's frustrating when teams take him out of the game, but it's also an opportunity for other guys to make plays," Mayfield told reporters. "We have to do our job of getting him the ball as many times as we can. He is a game-changer. That's why he's here. He's one of the best in the league. ... And if there are one-on-ones, we have to be able to take advantage of it.”
There’s time to fix things
All isn’t lost in Cleveland. A 2-3 start isn’t the end of the season. But there are serious glaring problems that need to be addressed.
A good start this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks would be a concerted effort to get the ball to Beckham.
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