Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry’s careers have always been aligned.
As receivers at LSU, Beckham and Landry were inseparable. They became best friends and top receivers in Baton Rouge. Beckham was selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. Landry was a second-round selection.
In the NFL, both players thrived for their respective teams at the same time. Beckham's one-handed grabs made him one of the most popular players in New York. Landry's toughness and steady pair of hands made him one of the most reliable receivers in Miami.
Now, the career trajectories for Beckham and Landry are tightly aligned again. They had one common goal before their second second back together in Cleveland: get back to full health.
"I'm looking forward to having a season where I can actually be out there practicing more and not worried about an injury," said Landry, who surgically repaired a hip injury he endured for all of 2019. "I'm still getting better. I'm still improving, taking each and every day to work on the things that I need to work on to make sure that I am healthy."
And what about Beckham? He also had surgery over the offseason on a groin injury that, just like his friend, nagged him for all of 2019.
"I can say that I am definitely feeling better than last year," Beckham said. "I'm just thankful that God has put me in a position to where I am feeling better."
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Beckham and Landry's career alignment is set to continue with the Browns in 2020, and their quotes Thursday before they open Week 1 in Baltimore are a clear indication that they expect more from themselves for Year 2 in Cleveland.
Their individual outputs from last season weren't bad — both guys topped 1,000 receiving yards and were team leaders in touchdowns — but don't tell the whole story. Neither receiver was happy with missing the playoffs last season, and neither enjoyed the pain of playing through injuries.
They each have a healthy, clean start in 2020, and coach Kevin Stefanski is expecting both players to carry a critical role in Cleveland's offense.
"It's easier to take away one guy; it's harder to take away two guys," he said. "They do have different skill sets, but they have been doing it for a long time and both have been productive in their own way."
The Browns became the most discussed team of the preseason last year after Beckham was traded to Cleveland and paired back with Landry. Their reunion brought Super Bowl-sized expectations to the Browns, and the duo embraced the hype to the fullest.
The Super Bowl goals are still there, but they haven't been spoken about by Beckham and Landry. The focus for this season is much more narrow. The goals are to stay healthy and catch the football when it's thrown their way.
The "big picture" goals — i.e winning a Super Bowl — are actually not in the picture at all. Not before Week 1, at least.
"We are constantly growing," Landry said. "I think that is one of the biggest things for us is having that open line of communication, being able to talk to each other and being able to have hard conversations. This is a game that throws a lot of challenges at you. I think the biggest thing for us is making sure that our communication level is at the point where it doesn't really matter what challenges we face or a team that we are going against. If we are on the same page, we should have successful plays."
Beckham and Landry certainly appear to be on the same page for 2020.
And why wouldn't they be? They've been on the same page for practically their whole career. They've had similar points of success, similar points of defeat and similar approaches to overcoming adversity.
The latter is what this season is about. So far, both have overcome the obstacles of their own recovery to full health.
Now, they're looking to push the Browns to the playoffs, one week at a time.
"I guess the only real judge is Sundays," Beckham said. "Everything else is neither here nor there. The ultimate tests are always on Sunday. I feel very good about this team, the staff and everything, and I am looking forward to getting to play."
Landry concurs, as best friends normally do, .
"You have to do the little things and go week by week with everything," he said, "and you will get there when you get there."