The Browns have options. They just don't have another Odell Beckham Jr.
That's the mindset Cleveland is taking as it prepares for life without Beckham, who is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in Sunday's win over the Bengals.
"Obviously, it's a big loss," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday. "As everyone knows, he is a huge part of what we do. Now we will just have to huddle up and find some different ways and find some different people and put them in that role. Ultimately, we are just trying to do what our players do best. That is our job to figure that out."
The Browns figured it out on the fly Sunday in Cincinnati, when Beckham was sidelined after just two plays. After a tough first quarter in which the Browns didn't complete a pass, Cleveland's offense came alive, and Baker Mayfield couldn't miss. He completed 21 straight passes and threw five touchdown passes to send the Browns to a comeback victory, and he did so in part because of elevated performances from players who simply haven't been on the field all that much this season.
Rashard Higgins caught six passes for a career-high 110 yards. Rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones, who entered Sunday's game without a catch, caught three key passes in the fourth quarter — none bigger than his 24-yard, game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left in the game.
Both players will be among the Browns' response to their remaining nine regular season games without Beckham, who posted 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns in the team's first six games. His numbers only tell part of the story of his effect on opposing defenses, and that's why it will take a committee to replace his impact.
"Odell, the energy he brings to practice and the energy he brings to the games, no one else is going to be able to bring that type of juice," Stefanski said. "It is our job to find the guys that can go compete and that we can go put them in spots where they can succeed. I think we will be able to do that. That is not easy. Do not want to have to do it and I am very disappointed for Odell, but that is the nature of this beast. Injuries are part of this game.
"It does not mean any of us have to like it, but we do have to deal with it."
KhaDarel Hodge, who missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, is expected to be among the reinforcements. Stefanski expects Hodge, who served as the team's No. 3 receiver to start the season, to return to practice this week and likely come off injured reserve.
Higgins and Peoples-Jones certainly earned Stefanski's respect for how they responded. Both players were healthy scratches at points in September before seeing their respective playing time increase in recent weeks.
Cleveland also has Taywan Taylor, who began the season on the practice squad before his recent elevation to the active roster. Ryan Switzer and rookie Ja’Marcus Bradley could be options if the Browns opt to dip into their current practice squad.
Asked if the Browns need to make any external moves to address depth at wide receiver, Stefanski said, "I think we will see how that all plays out."
"I will tell you, I like the guys we have in that room," Stefanski said. "(Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) and his staff, they look and they scour the league every Monday. They do, but we will work through that in the next few days."
Beckham's injury is the latest and most serious blow to a Browns offense that has dealt with its fair share of adversity. Pro Bowl RB Nick Chubb has been out since Week 4, G Wyatt Teller has missed the past two games and TE Austin Hooper was out Sunday after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
"You never replace a player of Odell's caliber with one player," Stefanski said. "We are not doing that with Nick Chubb. It is going to take multiple guys to replace these players. That is kind of the challenge that we have, and I think our guys will be up to the challenge."