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On Sunday, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered an injury while attempting to tackle Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips after an interception. After Beckham left the game, the Browns and Bengals would engage in a shoot out, ending when quarterback Baker Mayfield found wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones in the end zone for what would be the game winning touchdown.
After hours of celebrating a hard fought victory, came sobering news on Monday: Beckham Jr. would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Browns fans have been split with some saying that this is a catastrophic injury to the team that will ruin their season. Others are saying that the team will play better without him.
What is the case then? Is it one of these, a hybrid of the two, or neither?
Well it has its benefits and it’s pitfalls. It also opens up some potential options the front office could make. It’s just a matter of how time plays out.
Starting from the front office side of things, Cleveland technically doesn’t have to do anything. At this juncture, receivers like Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Peoples-Jones and Taywan Taylor are on the active roster. KhaDeral Hodge is expected to come back this week for the Las Vegas Raiders game. They also have Ja’Marcus Bradley and Ryan Switzer on their practice squad.
However, if general manager Andrew Berry wanted to make a move to sure up the wide receiver room, there’s some interesting names in free agency and trade. If Cleveland is willing to spend draft capital, teams like the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans could be looking to sell. Will Fuller, Jamison Crowder, Marvin Jones and Adam Thielen could see a trade.
The one name to watch could be Breshad Perriman from the New York Jets, who prior to the Beckham Jr. trade last year, was one of Mayfield’s top targets.
If they don’t feel like a trade is a good call, there’s free agents that could be interesting. Names like Demaryius Thomas, Donte Moncrief and Mohamed Sanu could come in after the bye week and help out. They wouldn’t be as flashy as the trade targets but sometimes signings do work out better.
On the field, there’s going to be a small dynamic change. With Beckham out, the team will need to focus more on chewing up field than stretching out and going deep. The option isn’t completely gone but the real deep threat is for the most part.
Landry will have to play the deep threat and while he can do it, he doesn’t have the speed of Beckham. He’s better as a medium threat that can get you some yards after catch. Every once in a while you can have him go deep and be a home run threat but they can’t abuse it.
Higgins will play a bigger role. When he’s been on the field, “Hollywood” Higgins has been one of Mayfield’s better target since he came into the league. He is a great target for Mayfield if they go for ten to twenty yards. They have a unique chemistry and this could be where Higgins truly breaks out.
It also wouldn’t be wrong to assume more tight end involvement. Harrison Bryant, David Njoku and Austin Hooper have combined for six touchdowns and 414 yards. Tight ends have played a vital role in this offense, it’s completely possible they become even more of a factor for the offense.
All of that said, Cleveland will remain a run heavy offense. With half back Nick Chubb expected back possibly after the bye week, it simply makes sense. There could be more short passes until Chubb’s return but don’t expect that much to change.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski has been able to roll with the punches all year and work with what’s been handed to him. He’s earned enough trust to be able to earn the opportunity to make this work. If he does, Cleveland may have something they haven’t had in years: a real head coach.