BEREA — Odell Beckham Jr. has faced the Ravens once in his six-year career, catching eight passes for a career-high 222 yards and two touchdowns in 2016 with the Giants.
His world was simpler back then.
“They played a lot of one high (safety) man-to-man,” he said Wednesday. “That’s why it doesn’t happen much (anymore). I get man-to-man, I’m just too confident in me — I’m going to win. The worst part about me is you could do great all game, all game, and then one play and it’s gone for 90 and that hurts.
“So teams don’t play that a lot. It’d be nice.”
Beckham is off to a solid start with the Browns after an offseason trade from the Giants. Heading into Sunday’s pivotal matchup in Baltimore, he’s fourth in the NFL with 288 receiving yards, tied for 13th with 19 catches and has a 15.2 average and a touchdown.
Yet he continues to bemoan a constant stream of coverages designed to negate his impact. He said defenses abandon their normal game plans because of him, turning to two deep safeties, with the one on his side working in combination with a corner underneath.
“Of course, I’d love to come out every Sunday and think that I got a good chance at being able to do well and help a team out, but it’s just not the coverage,” he said. “Teams have found a way to kind of eliminate the deep and have somebody in the intermediate and under routes. So it’s tough. It’s just about finding those beaters and then when we do get those kind of coverages, whoever’s got the one-on-one them winning their matchups.”
Baker Mayfield has thrown two of his five interceptions on passes intended for Beckham but hasn’t forced the ball his way too often. The interception in the opener was a bad throw and Beckham took the blame for the pick against the Jets that came on a throw over the middle in single coverage.
The double teams by the Rams on the final four plays from the 4-yard line in the 20-13 loss Sunday night sent Mayfield looking to the other side of the field for a better matchup. Beckham said he doesn’t ask Mayfield to give him a chance despite the defense’s extra attention.
“Whatever’s called, I’m going to go out there and do my job,” he said. “But definitely how I feel is I can make the plays. I would rather me fail and let the team down then not be able to help in a sense.
“So, of course, I welcome the pressure, I welcome failure, I welcome success, I welcome all that. It’s just when you do get your opportunities, you’ve just got to make the most of it.”
One of the reasons given for the offense’s unexpected struggles is the adjustment to having Beckham — how he affects the game plan and how defenses change for him.
“We are figuring it out,” Mayfield said. “I think that definitely teams are going to try and protect over the top and not have shots over the top of them with No. 13 but also having certain looks and disguising it. Just recognizing what teams are trying to do and adapting on the fly in the game.”
Beckham, 26, has been around the league long enough, had tremendous success and carries such a high profile, a leadership role seems natural. That doesn’t always come easy for him.
“I have a hard time myself just being more vocal and finding areas where I can insert, I guess, leadership in a sense and just finding ways to help everybody out,” he said. “And that’s a lot of responsibility that I put on myself at times, where I feel like I need to say something and it’s just we’re kind of feeling it out. But now I’m at the point where there’s not enough time to feel anything out. You’ve just got to go in.
“And it’s not any pointing fingers, it’s motivating, it’s picking each other up, it’s inspiring the next person. And that’s what true leaders do. I don’t think there’s any rulebook on how to be a leader, I don’t think I’ve ever read it or know who the author is, but there’s many different ways to lead and I’m just trying to find my way and my lane to lead over here.”
His previous appearance against the Ravens gave him the opportunity to lead by example — and force of will. He finished the career game despite a nasty hip injury sustained in a second-quarter fall when his legs got taken out from underneath him.
“My whole hip swelled up. Like this side was six-pack and this side was like beer belly,” he said of his abs. “And I remember it got to the fourth quarter, it’s the last two minutes and it was cramping so bad I was on the sideline before the play like in the fetal position. And they asked me am I going in and I said there’s no chance I’m not going in. It’s the last drive. We need a win. Caught it on fourth-and-1, slant and took it to the house.”