Odell Beckham Jr. has been giving the same message to running back Nick Chubb every day this season.
"I owe you," he says.
Beckham acknowledges his debt to Chubb on the practice field, in the huddle and in the locker room — and for good reason.
Beckham, Cleveland's big-play receiver, knows his opportunities will be greater if the running backs are clicking, too. He's itching to help the Browns' run game just as much as he's craving to catch his next deep ball.
So he wants to pay Chubb. Then, he wants to repay him, and he plans to make his payments in the form of blocks.
"I want that big block that springs him free just to see him running down the field," Beckham said Thursday in a video call with local reporters. "Just to see him running free and down the sideline is going to be a great feeling."
Beckham knows how far those blocks will go to help Chubb and RB Kareem Hunt find big runs, and he saw last Thursday how both departments go hand-in-hand in dominating a defense. The Browns rushed for 215 yards against the Bengals. Beckham, meanwhile, made four catches for 74 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass for his first score of the season.
When the rushing game clicks, so does quarterback Baker Mayfield and the rest of the offense. Beckham has a big role in either type of play.
"Nick Chubb needs to be the No. 1 rusher in the league, or Kareem, too," Beckham said. "You have two legitimate No. 1 backs in the backfield, and our team is very, very, very good at running the football, so you have to play to your strengths."
That philosophy is exactly what coach Kevin Stefanski implemented into his schemes for the playbook he constructed for his first season in Cleveland. The plays are built to bring out the best of all the offense's top weapons, and the Week 2 win was a great glimpse of how potent the Browns can be when the game plan is executed.
Stefanski has placed a heavy emphasis on giving opportunities to Chubb and Hunt, but he also aimed to amplify the connection between Mayfield and Beckham, who caught four touchdowns last season. So far, he's seen improvement between both of them, and their Week 2 performance was the latest example.
But he couldn't discuss Beckham's success without mentioning the importance of an efficient execution from everyone on the field.
"As it relates to the offense, whether it's just (Beckham and Mayfield) in particular, I would really hope that we are one game better every single week here," Stefanski said in his postgame interview. "That is going to be the precision of the pass game. You would hope that with more game reps, it helps the offensive line, helps the backs and helps the receivers. In total, I think that these game reps are totally invaluable to what we are doing. I really hope that there is a constant improvement going on."
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has stressed to all receivers the importance of creating "efficient" targets on offense. He understands how every receiver wants passes thrown their way each game, but he wants those throws to come at perfect times.
Running the ball is one way for that to happen. If an offense breaks off a big carry early in a game, the defense is more likely to adjust by adding more players in the box, which leaves less defenders outside where receivers thrive.
The Browns want to use Beckham and fellow receiver Jarvis Landry most in one-on-one coverage — that's how Beckham scored his deep-ball touchdown last Thursday. If Cleveland establishes the run game, those single-defender battles should only increase.
And when that happens, the Browns will pounce with passes.
"It's a team game," Van Pelt said. "That is one thing that coaches preach from Day 1. It is a team, and we are going to win as a team. I know (pass game coordinator/wide receivers) coach (Chad) O'Shea preaches that in the wide receiver room. It starts first with the team, and whatever is best for the team is what we are going to do."
The plan can change every week. In Week 1, Beckham was targeted 10 times but only made three catches for 22 yards. The Browns needed their passing game to soar to complete a difficult comeback against the Ravens, but Baltimore defended well against the pass — they limited the Browns' rushing attack and didn't need to constantly stack the box with defenders.
In Week 2, Beckham received four less targets but made one more catch and delivered one of his best games in a Browns uniform. Cleveland's running game couldn't be stopped, and Beckham flourished as a result of the open space.
"(Beckham) was much more successful and efficient on those targets," Van Pelt said. "I think he knows that."
He does. That's why he wants to pay back his teammate by making plays when the ball isn't in his hands. If a big block will open a running lane for Chubb, Beckham might open a big space for a deep route on the next drive.
The Browns won't take those chances for granted.
"I think you learn where you fit in and where you are able to make your plays and how you can help the team," Beckham said. "I think a lot of my growth came in just knowing that is what it's going to be and finding a way to create that block that springs (Chubb), or whatever it is to help us win."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Washington Football Team