OBJ, Mayfield and the power of explosive plays

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The Cleveland Browns have an explosive wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., a quarterback with some proven track record in Baker Mayfield and a play-caller capable of creating openings for the passing game to thrive.

Yet, so far, Mayfield and Beckham have not been able to connect in just over half of a season together under Kevin Stefanski.

Many have attempted to explain why it is but none will be able to find causality. Their relationship is good. Mayfield has enough arm and ability to get the ball downfield. Beckham doesn’t struggle to catch the ball. Stefanski is putting them in a position to succeed.

In the end, correlation does not equal causation. Mayfield and Beckham haven’t made magic happen in Cleveland but the Browns seem content to continue to give it more and more chances.

Why?

Explosive plays.

While Cleveland’s offense can get explosive plays from their run and screen games, Beckham gives the Browns another field-stretching dimension. Rookie Anthony Schwartz has to develop before he can be relied on consistently while Donovan Peoples-Jones has not been able to build on his exciting rookie season and breakout training camp.

Even the team’s quality tight ends, Austin Hooper and David Njoku, have minimal explosive plays.

That leaves Beckham as the team’s lone explosive playmaker on the outside.

How important are explosive plays? A new article breaks it down with a lot of detail but the base premise is not surprising: More explosive plays lead to more scoring. This graph gives a simple visual of that statement:

For the article, a traditional idea of “explosive play” is used: Runs over 10 yards and passes over 15 yards. The graph makes it clear, the more explosive plays you have, the far better your chances to score.

Beckham gives the Browns the best chance for more explosive plays per drive. Whether it is a deep ball, a quick slant with a lot of yards after catch or the dynamic receiver breaking tackles and pushing for extra yards, Beckham brings an explosive play dynamic that is lacking from the rest of the passing game.

Will Mayfield and Beckham ever make beautiful music on the football field together? Maybe not consistently but can they add enough explosive plays to make a difference? Cleveland seems bound and determined to find out in 2021 and for good reason.