Browns WRs look to take 'committee' approach to keep pass game humming

Chad O’Shea likes the approach his receivers have taken in their first week without Odell Beckham Jr.

Browns players and coaches have said all week their confidence in the offense and wide receivers group will remain high despite the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. to a season-ending knee injury.

Pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea echoed those sentiments Friday when he overlaid how the landscape of his position group will be impacted by Beckham's loss. Adjustments and roles will be changed, but the expectations for the offense won't. 

Everyone must step up, and O'Shea believes he has a room ready to do just that.

"We've had great energy this week at practice," O'Shea said. "I know that the receivers have really embraced their roles. I think every week is different in our game plan and I think everyone has a different role every week. This week, they've done an outstanding job of going out and trying to put our team in the best position to win by embracing those roles."

The Browns' Week 8 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders will provide a full glimpse at how roles among the receivers might change. Jarvis Landry, a seven-year veteran, leads the Browns with 367 receiving yards and 29 receptions and will certainly continue to be an important piece with Cleveland every week.

Landry, who's played through a rib injury sustained in Week 5 against Indianapolis, has been a consummate leader for the Browns since he joined the team in 2018. He's always found ways to motivate himself and the players around him — whether it be through his words or by making big plays — and his leadership will be needed even more moving forward.

"It's great to have a leader like Jarvis Landry in our room," O'Shea said. "He certainly is someone the other guys look to. If he brings energy to the practice field and energy to the meeting room, that's going to be beneficial to our group."

After Landry, opportunities for more targets await for Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge or Taywan Taylor. Their roles could fluctuate on a week-by-week basis, but all of them will be needed each week to continue to make big plays in the pass game.

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Las Vegas Raiders

The Browns instantly proved last week that they can still run an efficient pass game without Beckham. Quarterback Baker Mayfield won AFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for five touchdowns, tying a Browns record, and his 135.6 quarterback rating was the highest of any quarterback in Week 7.

His big week wouldn't have been possible, though, without big plays from the other receivers who filled in after Beckham left in the first quarter. Higgins and Peoples-Jones combined for 166 receiving yards, for example, and made the most of their chances to make plays after previously undertaking smaller roles in the offense.

The big performance from Higgins, who caught 110 receiving yards and made a game-changing 30-yard reception that set up the winning touchdown in the final seconds, didn't shock O'Shea. He's seen how diligent Higgins has been at staying prepared for his shot, so when it finally arrived Sunday, O'Shea knew the five-year veteran would be ready.

"What he's done when people aren't looking has been outstanding," O'Shea said. "He's been a real professional. He's been outstanding in our meetings and outstanding at working very hard when he wasn't in the role he's been in now. I wasn't a bit surprised by his performance in that game based on all the things he's done prior to that moment that has put him in a position to be successful."

The same could be said for Peoples-Jones, a sixth-round rookie who hadn't caught a pass all season before hauling in a reception from Landry on a trick play in the fourth quarter. Peoples-Jones' third catch of the afternoon was the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left, and that play will stand as one of the Browns' top highlights of the season.

Coach Kevin Stefanski referred to Peoples-Jones as "Mr. Reliable" earlier this week. O'Shea seconded that label.

"That's what he is — reliable," he said. "He's spent extra time learning the offense. He's able to play in multiple positions because he can mentally handle that. That allows other players on the field to utilize their strengths and their skill sets best. He's done an outstanding job in his preparation. He's smart and he works hard. He's done a great job of putting the team first."

Big-play opportunities will be available to everyone, though. Beckham's elite talent is tough to replace, but the Browns are confident in the guys they have behind them to fill the void. 

Everyone will be needed the rest of the season, and O'Shea believes everyone is ready for whatever work will come their way. 

"We're going to do this by committee," O'Shea said. "One player can't replace another player, regardless of who it is."

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