Position Preview

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Browns 2021 position preview: Analyzing the WRs

The wide receivers room stepped up last year when Odell Beckham Jr. went down. With Beckham set to return, how will the room look this year?

The countdown 'til training camp is on.

In two weeks, the Browns will be back in Berea for five weeks of practices, meetings and preparations for the 2021 season — one that's filled with hype following several key additions to the defense and little changes to an offense that thrived in 2020.

We're examining each position on the roster as Day 1 of camp nears and continuing with a position that should have plenty of competition behind two key veterans.

The Wide Receivers

Check out photos of the wide receivers the Browns will be bringing into training camp

What we know: Beckham is back. After undergoing ACL surgery in November for his Week 7 injury, Beckham didn't hesitate to show he's ready for action during minicamp, where he was back to running full sprints, making hard cuts and attempting one-handed catches. We'll wait to see how much the Browns test Beckham in training camp, but they believe he'll be ready to re-join trusty veteran and best friend Landry at the top of the depth chart. Behind them, eight players will jostle for receiving roles that proved crucial to the Browns' success last season. Among them are Higgins, a favorite target of quarterback Baker Mayfield, Peoples-Jones, a 2020 sixth-round pick who stepped up in big moments as a rookie, and Schwartz, the 2021 third-round draft pick who should add a wrinkle of creativity to head coach Kevin Stefanski's playbook with his elite speed.

What we don't know: The offense took off in the second half of last season thanks to adjustments Stefanski, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and Mayfield made during the bye week. How much higher can they go with Beckham back in the lineup? His deep-ball abilities and talents to make big plays out of nothing — like his Week 4 win-clinching run against Dallas — could mean even more to the offense now that the unit is even more comfortable with Stefanski's playbook. Intrigue also stems from how the Browns will use Schwartz in his first NFL season and how big of a leap Peoples-Jones can make in his second year. The Browns believe both players will grow into prominent roles in their receivers room, but they're in no rush to get those answers now — both guys will have plenty of time to develop. Peoples-Jones, Natson, Switzer and possibly Schwartz will also be in competition for returning roles.

The X-Factor: Beckham. After topping 1,000 receiving yards in 2019, he's itching to return as a big-time producer in Cleveland. He scored four touchdowns in six full games last season and was on pace to have one of his best seasons with the Browns. He's one player who could massively benefit from the offensive continuity that should help Mayfield take a big step in 2021, and if that happens, Beckham is likely to benefit in big ways, too.

The biggest number: 101 - That's how many targets Landry was given last year, which led the Browns and were almost more than double the next wide receiver on the list — Higgins with 52 targets. Despite missing more than half of the season, Beckham finished third among wide receivers with 43 targets.

Says it all: "The work he did in the first two days of minicamp was outstanding. He looked really, really good. Says he is feeling better and feeling good. I know he is working his butt off to be great. Really impressed with his ability to come back as quickly as he has. Ran some really good individual routes during the side periods. Got some really good work in. Good to see him back in the mix and feeling better." — Van Pelt on Beckham

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 6

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