The Cleveland Browns had an incredible 2019 off-season. They traded for superstar receiver Odell Beckham. Baker Mayfield had a phenomenal rookie season in which he broke the NFL rookie record for passing touchdowns. Through two weeks, the offense has been shaky. Mayfield has thrown four picks. They’ve had trouble moving the ball down the field. They host the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football this week. The offense will need to be better, and it starts with moving the ball through the air. Here are the keys for the Cleveland Browns passing offense to beat the Rams on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns Passing Offense: Keys on Sunday
Establishing the Run
It may sound silly in an article about passing the ball, but Cleveland needs to run the ball. Head coach and play caller Freddie Kitchens lies to run play action a lot. However, when defenses are able to key in on Mayfield, play action stands no chance.
Establishing Nick Chubb early on will open up the field and playbook for Kitchens and Mayfield all game long. The Rams boast a tough defensive front led by perhaps the best player in the NFL, Aaron Donald. If the Browns can keep them on their toes and guessing, it will be much easier to throw the ball down the field when they need to. Chubb should carry the ball 20-25 times in this game in order to set up play action and some downfield throws.
Getting Production From Pass Catchers Not Named Odell
Beckham had a huge week 2. He caught six passes for 161 yards and the game-sealing touchdown pass. However, his fellow wide receivers were fairly silent all game. Rashard Higgins was out with a knee injury. Recently signed Taywan Taylor did very little of note, as did the $15 million man Jarvis Landry.
Now tight end David Njoku is on injured reserve with a broken wrist, further complicating things. Demetrius Harris will start at tight end against the Rams. The Browns have to find production elsewhere. Higgins is back for week three, and he became one of Mayfield’s favorite targets at the end of 2018.
Jarvis Landry has to step up. Through two weeks, he has just 99 receiving yards. The Browns need more production out of their No. 2 receiver. While Mayfield isn’t free of blame, the Browns pass catchers other than Beckham simply have to be better.
Getting Rid of the Ball Quicker
Mayfield has taken eight sacks through two weeks. First instinct may tell you to blame the offensive line, but a closer look supplants that idea.
Mayfield simply needs to get rid of the ball faster. The offensive line is giving him around three seconds back there every time he drops back. He’s averaging 3.07 seconds in the pocket before each throw. However, when he gets rid of it before 2.5 seconds, he’s completing 74 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and one pick. When he holds it longer than 2.5 seconds, he’s completing just 55 percent with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Part of this is scheme related. Cleveland hasn’t run many short or intermediate plays for Mayfield yet. It’s as if they’re trying to hit a home run on every play. If they want to beat the Rams, they have to find a way for Mayfield to get rid of the ball faster than he has through two weeks.
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