Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and teammates found themselves annoyed last fall by questions about if their offense improved after star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went down to a torn ACL on Oct. 25, but the numbers don't lie. For example, Mayfield produced the league's third-best QBR from Week 7 to Week 15 without Beckham in the rotation, and Cleveland ultimately qualified for the playoffs and earned a postseason win at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Beckham officially returned to practice for the first time since the injury on Tuesday, and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt did his part to pour cold water over the notion Mayfield and company would be better without OBJ when the 2021 season begins in September. Van Pelt said Thursday, per Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
"Baker was better as the season went on, whether there had been Odell or not still out there. 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."
On Wednesday, Mayfield explained how Beckham can "exploit matchups and create better opportunities for everybody else and not only himself" when healthy and in the lineup. Van Pelt touched upon the same:
"Anytime you have a great act, you see a lot of coverage roll to that player. That kind of went away when Odell was injured. That opens it up for other players to be successful. It is not always great to be double-teamed all of the time, but sometimes that’s going to happen when you are great. I would expect teams to have to honor Odell and potentially, at times, put two guys on him."