The Browns need the WR underdog to appear
By: Chinmay Kulkarni
The Browns are built to run the ball down opponents’ throats. Having a running back by committee approach – a format teams are embracing around the NFL – Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb form one of the scariest running duo in the league behind one of the most dominant offensive lines in the league. The leader of the offense, Baker Mayfield, has therefore been the target of criticism of the blamestream boomer media that believe that the quarterback should be always at the helm of the team. Though Baker may not have the stats as some of the S-tier quarterbacks in the league, he is still serviceable enough with a good receiving core to throw the ball to.
The Odell saga with the Cleveland Browns has come to an unsurprising, screeching halt. The All-pro wide receiver has been a common sighting on injury reports since last year, a time when other wide receivers and pass-catching backs were able to thrive in Cleveland. With OBJ leaving for the Los Angeles Rams to form a top-3 WR trio with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, the Rams seem to be trending in the positive direction, while the Browns may have taken a step back towards making a playoff push in a tough AFC.
Donovan Peoples-Jones seems to be the most likely breakout star resulting from the OBJ trade. The Michigan star WR was always overshadowed by the duo of OBJ and Jarvis Landry but now looks to be the WR2 in the Browns scheme. The chemistry behind the Landry-Mayfield connection is without a doubt, garnering 29 targets throughout the season, only ranking below OBJ and Austin Hooper. The problem with the WR connections as a whole, however, always seems to stem from Baker. Expectations on the Browns to make a deep playoff push always start a comparison between playoff lock QBs, and Mayfield, ranks middle of the pack in QBR, lower than the Bradys and the Staffords of the world.
Mayfield however absolutely LOVES to take shots down the field, ranking in the top-10 for QBs that take shots 50+ yards downfield. DPJ, with his apparent speed, fits excellently into this mold and should project to get more targets and catches as the Browns face COVID problems at RB. Baker also has a 158 passer rating when targeting DPJ, but we all know that may have come from the hail mary against the Arizona Cardinals. OBJ also has garnered the most number of targets on the Browns, and some of those future targets will definitely be going to DPJ.
The news for DPJ and the entire Browns WR core should get even better in the coming weeks. The Browns play the Patriots in Week 10, a middle-of-the-pack defense against WRs, and the Lions in Week 11, which has been the floormat of the NFL under Dan Campbell. Nick Chubb contracting COVID will likely promote throwing the ball downfield as well, something that bodes well soon.
So, while Donovan Peoples-Jones will likely be looking at a large step up in production, he is likely a decent flex play for week 10. And though the Browns TE group may look a piece of the action as well, we should likely be seeing more shots down field as the Browns struggle to make a playoff push, and may be playing from behind against a tough upcoming AFC North slate.