Odell Beckham Jr. has given the Cleveland Browns darkhorse Super Bowl hopes for the 2019 season, so it’s understandable for new head coach Freddie Kitchens to want his top weapon on offense to practice with the team as often as possible. Likewise, it makes sense for Beckham to avoid risking injury at sessions that aren’t mandatory.
The Cleveland Browns offense looked like a different animal in the second half of the 2018 season under the guidance of offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, who parlayed his work with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield into a full-time gig as the Browns head coach for the upcoming season. Expectations are high for the Browns, as they added big names to the defensive line and made a huge splash at wide receiver by acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants in a bargain deal.
Beckham has been playing it safe during organized team activities in his first offseason with the Browns, as he’s only appeared at one practice session. Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, per the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, didn’t agree with Beckham’s decision to avoid attending most of OTAs, surmising that the star wideout missed “a lot” in his absences. Per Cabot, the Browns expected Beckham to appear at more than just one OTA.
It’s important to note that OTAs are voluntary, and Beckham likely wanted to train on his own instead of risking injury. Next week’s minicamp sessions are mandatory, and he’ll have plenty of time during training camp to build familiarity with Mayfield. Beckham has likely watched plenty of film of Mayfield, too, which should help him understand the young quarterback’s tendencies.
Although offensive coordinator Todd Monken also acknowledged that it wasn’t ideal to have Mayfield throw it to receivers besides his top target at OTAs, the extra reps could help the receivers further on the depth chart, including the bubble guys. Beckham, who is one of the most intelligent receivers in the NFL, may not need those additional reps. With the Browns eyeing a deep playoff run, his health is paramount, even if it comes at the trade-off of a few missed team activities early in the offseason.
Kitchens may have wanted Beckham to be out there, but it’s doubtful that he’s actually frustrated with his best playmaker. Perhaps Kitchens is just itching to see Beckham in action, as the creative coach presumably has several special plays cooked up for OBJ, including ones involving fellow star wideout and close friend Jarvis Landry.