Quarterback Baker Mayfield never developed the chemistry he desired with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry last year because the receivers hardly practiced all season as they dealt with injuries.
With Beckham (core muscle) and Landry (hip) spending this offseason rehabbing from post-season surgeries and everyone separated because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chance to build on-field synergy has been erased.
Mayfield isn’t worried. In fact, he believes the duo is due for great things.
“What we are doing right now in these Zoom meetings and these installs have created a great foundation for scheme-wise being on the same page,” Mayfield said Wednesday on a Zoom conference call with reporters. “But those guys are working extremely hard after their surgeries for the rehab process. They look really good and they say they feel really good.
“It is just a different mindset going into it. I think they went back to the basics. They are ready to take over and it is their time now. They know that. We only have so many more opportunities together. They are going to do it and everything for each other, and I am looking forward to seeing the productivity they have.”
Landry made his fifth straight Pro Bowl last year after leading the Browns with 83 catches for 1,174 yards and six touchdowns. Beckham added 74, 1,035 and four but was disappointed he didn’t have a greater impact in his first season with the team.
They didn’t miss a game, but Beckham had surgery in January and Landry in February. Beckham should be ready if training camp starts on time in late July, and Landry said last week he’s expected back in August.
“It definitely hindered them, physically obviously, but the mental part of it and the frustrations that came from that I think affected it more,” said Mayfield, who said he sits in on receiver meetings. “If you don’t feel like you are able to play at a certain level, that is frustrating. That is really frustrating if you are not able to physically do the things you are normally capable of doing.
“For them, I feel that frustration, but they are taking advantage of this time to get better. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do this year.”
The Browns continue to be interested in and linked to free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who remains unsigned. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Wednesday the Browns have made the highest offer.
“I think they’ve been the most aggressive team with him financially,” Schefter said on ESPN Cleveland’s “The Next Level. “I just think he has balked at going to Cleveland for whatever reason. It’s the richest offer on the table and he hasn’t taken it. Why is that? I don’t know. That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t change, but it hasn’t changed just yet.”
If the Browns land Clowney, they would be expected to cut veteran end Olivier Vernon, whose salary for 2020 is $15 million.
EXPECTING THE BEST
The NFL and NFL Players Association haven’t agreed on conditions for a return to the field during the pandemic, but Mayfield expects to play a full season.
“I am staying optimistic because the world needs sports,” he said. “We need to be safe with that in mind, but I think hopefully soon it will start to open up and we will have football back again. I know I need something to watch on TV right now. It would be great to watch the playoffs in basketball.”
Browns center JC Tretter was elected president of the union in March and was adamant last week that the players’ safety is his top priority.
“Once we get there down the road — I can’t predict what there will be, some better treatments and things like that — I am expecting a good process and for us to be able to open up,” Mayfield said. “JC is in our locker room, and he is going to lead a great chart with the NFLPA.”
MONOPOLY OR SCRABBLE?
Mayfield has found ways to stay busy and scratch his competitive itch during the quarantine. He hasn’t figured out how to keep the ball in the fairway.
“I have tried to get better at golf. It is not happening,” he said. “My effort’s there, I have always been a high-effort guy. I am swinging hard still, but it is still not going straight.
“Other than that, I have tried to find some new shows. I enjoyed the ‘Tiger King’ and got back into ‘Ozark.’ We have been on the lake quite a bit. We are trying to enjoy the weather while we can. And a lot of competitive board games that don’t always end in happiness, but it is good to keep that drive.”
Mayfield continues to be impressed with first-time head coach Kevin Stefanski.
“Kevin is, obviously, an extremely sharp guy,” he said. “He is able to relate to everybody and that is one of the best parts about him in being around him so far. And just hearing his message — everything he does is with a purpose. It is a very deliberate message and he has everybody believing in that on the staff. I think that is how the foundation should be set and he has done an unbelievable job of that.”