Cleveland's offense is in a rut. In the Browns' three losses, they've scored just 29 points combined and averaged just 165.7 passing yards per game. It wasn't supposed to be this way, not after the acquisition of Odell Beckham, his pairing with Jarvis Landry and the simultaneous ascension of Baker Mayfield into a Mahomesian-level franchise quarterback.
And yet, entering the sixth week of the season, one before their bye, the Browns' offense has yet to lift off with consistency -- and more distressing, neither has Beckham. After averaging 6.7 catches and 96 receiving yards through Cleveland's first three contests, OBJ has seen a significant dropoff in production. Beckham has caught just two passes in each of the Browns's last two games -- one a blowout win, one a blowout loss -- on 13 combined targets for 47 total receiving yards.
In Monday night's 31-3 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, arguably the most impactful positive play Beckham made was a 20-yard pass to Jarvis Landry on the first play of the game. Landry told reporters Thursday that if Cleveland is to pick it up on offense, the Browns have to force the ball to his friend, who happens to be their top playmaker.
"I'm not calling plays or designing anything," Landry told reporters, per The Plain Dealer. "But at the end of the day, obviously (Beckham)'s a key part of our offense whether the ball's in his hands or not. We've got to find ways for other guys to continue to make plays. But the way that it's been going, we haven't really been making enough plays without him touching the ball.
"So we've definitely got to find a way to include him even more in the offense and be intentional with it. It doesn't matter if the defense knows it. We've got to be intentional with getting him the ball. Getting playmakers the ball, period."
No playmaker, Beckham or otherwise, was able to break out on Monday night. Mayfield completed just 8 of 22 passes against a swarming Niners pass rush. Beckham and Landry were each targeted six times, but the latter was the only receiver who hauled in more than two catches.
Mayfield suggested this week that Beckham gets frustrated when he does not get the ball as Cleveland is losing, a combination which happened for the first time on Monday. Beckham said Thursday there is something to that.
"I hate losing, period," Beckham said, per a team transcript. "Any time we lose and I do not feel like I did anything to help win the game, I am going to be frustrated. That is just the bottom line. I am winner in my heart, and I hate losing."
One week after a blowout of the rival Baltimore Ravens, the loss to San Francisco was disturbing in its nature but not so much that those in Berea are losing their heads.
"Panic button is not the thing," Landry added. "Our focus has to be on we may not be as good as we thought we were and we need to find ways to play to our potential. We just haven't been playing to our potential."
How does Cleveland play to its potential? Amend the play-calling, Landry says.
"I don't call plays, right?" he said. "So I just say just from my perspective we just have to be intentional. We have to just deliberately get him the ball. Get all of our playmakers the ball. Guys that are going to make plays for us, just get them the ball."
Currently calling plays for Cleveland is first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, who ascended to HC of CLE after performing well as an interim OC last season after Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were axed. Kitchens has failed to cook up the same magic in 2019 that inspired a late postseason charge from Mayfield and Co. last year. The Browns rank 23rd in total offense, 28th in third-down conversion rate and 29th in Football Outsiders' DVOA, just above the likes of the winless Redskins, Jets and Dolphins.
When asked if he intends to hand off play-calling, Kitchens has told reporters he does not plan to do so. Landry said Thursday that he is transparent with the first-year coach about his frustrations with the offense.
"Whether it's film study throughout the week that I've seen or something during the game that I see and just try to talk to them about it," Landry said. "At the end of the day I can only give my suggestion -- I'm not the one calling the plays. I can only give my suggestion, other guys can only give their suggestion about what they're seeing, about what's going on."