Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski ended the speculation early this week.
On Wednesday, he announced that wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would not be playing in the team’s Week 2 game against the Houston Texans.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. won’t play Sunday, Stefanski says. He will continue to practice on a limited basis.
— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) September 15, 2021
OBJ was a game-time decision in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Stefanski said it was 50/50 OBJ would play. After warming up, Odell told him he “didn't feel like he could go a significant amount.” Stefanski added it’s “possible” OBJ plays Week 2. #Browns
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) September 12, 2021
After working out on the field, it was determined he could not go.
Beckham is 10 months removed from ACL surgery on November 10, 2020.
A 12-month post-surgery timeline is typical except for former NFL running back Adrian Peterson who miraculously recovered in eight months.
The Browns have a deep wide receiver room.
While they wait for Beckham to return to 100 percent, there are several players who can pick up the slack.
Browns WR routes on 33 dropbacks without Odell Beckham (knee) Sunday:
Jarvis Landry 29
Donovan Peoples-Jones 28
Anthony Schwartz 18
Rashard Higgins 2
DPJ with one target all afternoon.
— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) September 13, 2021
Here are just two of them.
2. Anthony Schwartz
Rookie speedster Anthony Schwartz made his NFL debut against the Chiefs.
Anthony Schwartz making PLAYS @AuburnFootball ⚡️⚡️⚡️
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 12, 2021
Schwarz was targeted five times and ended the day with three catches for 69 yards.
He is considered to have Tyreek Hill speed and is aptly nicknamed “Flash”.
Inserting him into the Browns offense while Beckham is out could make for some interesting mismatches resulting in huge Browns plays.
1. Rashard Higgins
Rashard Higgins seemed conspicuously absent in last week’s game against the Chiefs.
He only played four offensive snaps and did not see any targets.
Higgins had 599 yards receiving and four touchdowns in 2020 so his chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield is already established.
He is a logical choice to get more targets while OBJ is out.
Higgins was dealing with a hamstring issue at the end of training camp and did not play in the final preseason game against the Falcons.
That injury was considered not serious but could partially explain his lack of playing time against the Chiefs.
— Baillie Burmaster (@bayburmTV) August 26, 2021
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) August 26, 2021
Other Position Players Who Can Contribute
Though these two wide receivers can certainly step up, the Browns offense is loaded with depth.
Picking up the slack during Beckham’s absence does not necessarily need to come from the wide receivers.
The Browns have three tight ends who are playmakers.
Coach Stefanski likes multiple tight end formations so any of these players could step up.
Hunt is a particular threat because he can line up as a wide receiver or come out of the backfield to catch passes.
The Browns have enough offensive firepower to make up for OBJ’s absence.
The team is 0-1 after a disappointing loss to the Chiefs.
Expect Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to employ a wide range of strategies to keep the Texans off balance.
While the Browns were underdogs in the Kansas City game, they are heavy favorites over the Texans.
The team is shedding the disappointment surrounding the Chiefs game which they should have won and focusing solely on the Texans.
They cannot afford a loss to the Texans, which would drop them to 0-2 in a very competitive AFC North division.