Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will sit out of their upcoming matchup against the Houston Texans, his second consecutive absence this season and eleventh since sustaining his injury during Week 8 of last season. And before you send that rage-filled message to your fantasy league full of of Browns fans, or before you put together a fruitless tweet going into graphic detail about why the Browns shouldn’t have traded for the superstar player, take a moment to consider the grand scheme of things in which Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and the Browns find themselves in. Once you do that, let’s discuss why OBJ’s absence this Sunday against Houston will be just another page in the history books.
Let’s get the obvious point(s) out of the way, Dawg Pound. Beckham Jr.’s inactivity on Sunday doesn’t put Baker Mayfield in the biggest pickle in the world, as the Browns boast a deep receiving core of Jarvis Landry, speedster Anthony Schwartz, preseason standout Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as Rashard Higgins, who could perhaps benefit the most from the opportunity, considering Higgins played just seven percent of offensive snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs. Oh yeah, not to mention the two-headed dragon known as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
This, combined with an optimal matchup against a depleted Texans secondary that just rid itself of veteran CB Bradley Roby, allows the Browns to do much more than simply not worry about the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. While the Browns would absolutely love to see OBJ take the field sooner rather than later, giving as many offensive players more opportunities is actually by design. When addressing the media on September 1st, Stefanski emphasized his wish of having a dependable, skilled young core that extends much further than the likes of Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward. Opportunities like the upcoming game against the Texans, as well as following matchups versus the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings create plenty of chances for several Browns players to take significant steps forward early on in the season. And while this is no argument for hoping Beckham Jr. sits more, there are more benefits than drawbacks to seeing growth in the early weeks of a long NFL season.
Let’s actually look a bit deeper than the panic-inducing fact of “Odell isn’t playing this week against the Texans.” The first point is a likely misconception that Beckham Jr. is watching from the sidelines, catching balls, while the rest of the team is working to fix any mistakes that might have been made in last Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and take steps forward as an entire unit. This thought could not be further from the truth, as both Matt Fontana of ESPNCleveland & Cleveland.com have reported that, both before AND after the announcement that OBJ would not play against the Texans, that Odell will be practicing all throughout this week with a limited designation. Regardless of how you feel about the term “limited,” this is undeniably good news as Beckham Jr. works his way back to full health.
We can’t forget that Odell Beckham Jr., is Odell Beckham Jr. One could argue that playing against a team with Odell Beckham Jr. simply on the roster is a hurdle in and of itself, considering that this could bring about an unpredictable play calling strategy. Will the Texans defense put a majority of their eggs in one basket by preparing for a full-fledged running attack that saw Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt carry the ball 21 times (not to mention their abilities as skilled pass catchers)? Will they plan for a utilization of their other passing game skills, which could see Baker Mayfield employ many Odell-centered plays go toward other pass catchers? Or, will they play it safe & prepare for an all-out offensive barrage, which could allow for the Browns offense to utilize all of the outstanding tools they have, and run away with the game early? No matter what, the Browns ought to be feeling fairly decent about their ability to really express themselves when moving down the field on Sunday.
Why be frustrated at the Browns (and OBJ) for not giving it a go against an arguably bottom-3 team in the league when this provides even better opportunities for both the ladder & the former to get even healthier overall? While Beckham Jr.’s career statistics have steadily decreased since his first impactful injuries while being the top option on the New York Giants, he has consistently shown that he is a proven, star-caliber player, even post injury. Yes, OBJ’s most notable injury was his ACL tear on October 25th, 2020, however OBJ has shown that injuries do not define him. Undoubtedly, Odell’s best game in orange & brown was his October 4th, 2020 performance against the Dallas Cowboys, which saw OBJ post 5 catches for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as 2 rushes for an impressive 73 yards and a game-clinching rushing touchdown. Did you know that prior to that performance, Beckham Jr. battled back almost a dozen-plus injuries, including a hamstring tear, a high ankle sprain, and an ankle fracture, just to name a few? This is not Odell’s first rodeo with a notable injury, and many, if not all, fans will be appreciative of this time being taken to ensure Odell’s wellbeing.
We might just be looking at too small, or too weak, of a scope when it comes to Beckham Jr.’s inactivity against the Houston Texans. While the Browns do have appealing upcoming matchups against the Texans, as well as the Chicago Bears & Minnesota Vikings, their 2021-2022 NFL season is by no means a cake walk. In addition to two games against a banged-up-yet-solid Baltimore Ravens team, the Browns will also have to outplay some tougher opponents such as reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers & the Green Bay Packers, an all-around rising team in the Los Angeles Chargers, and a potentially elite squad on both sides of the ball in the Arizona Cardinals, not to mention division rivals Pittsburgh & Cincinnati. A possibly rushed return for OBJ against a team like the Houston Texans could spell trouble down the line in a longer, 18-week season, where many different injuries could occur to many different players. And while hearing that Odell’s out for a second week in a row might spoil your Sunday morning cup of coffee, it sure beats a Monday morning coffee following a Browns loss, because the offense simply couldn’t get things going.
Football, like life itself, can sometimes be greatly strengthened through patience. There’s a lot to like about the projection of this Browns team, and when a healthy (and ready) Odell Beckham Jr. is back in the mix, things will get that much more exciting in Cleveland, Ohio. Don’t sweat the small stuff, Browns fans!