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OTAs & Minicamp

With all eyes on receivers, Baker Mayfield points to backfield

After what seemed like months of continuous rain and gloom, Tuesday brought blue skies and sun. It was a great day because of the weather, but also because it featured Odell Beckham Jr. in a Browns uniform on the practice fields in Berea.

Wednesday was an even warmer and sunnier day, but it didn't include Beckham, who is balancing his own usual offseason training routine with the Browns' voluntary activities. That's no problem to his quarterback, Baker Mayfield.

"You let a guy like that be him," Mayfield said of Beckham. "Everybody has their routine. Stick to what's working, and for him, obviously it's been working for a while. He's gonna do what he's gonna do. You've got to trust he's going to be there when it matters and we know who he is."

It has been working. Beckham has tallied 390 catches for 5,476 yards, 44 touchdowns and three Pro Bowl appearances in just 59 career games. His addition to a receiving corps that already featured Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, among others, made it that much stronger -- and a focal point of those analyzing the makeup of the Browns.

"We've got a good team," Mayfield said after Wednesday's OTA session. "Now, it's what are we going to do with it?"

Check out photos from the second day of OTA practices

Considering Mayfield's offseason spent with his teammates -- a process he said has been much different than his rookie year, which he spent learning behind Tyrod Taylor before abruptly taking over in the middle of Week 3 -- he'd know better than anyone the potential of the offense. But while eyes are trained on Nos. 13 and 80 (and 11, and 85, and 81, and so on), Mayfield thinks people are missing what could end up being more important: The backfield.

"I think we still need to be able to run it in our division. We have to," Mayfield said. "Mentality-wise, it's a tough division. Yeah, people are talking about our receivers and tight ends, but we've got to be able to run the ball in short yardage, cold weather, all the stuff like that. It's pretty important, and I'm hoping everybody kind of overshadowing and not talking the running backs kind of pisses them off."

It's a position group headed by Nick Chubb, a second-round pick who became a rookie sensation thanks to his long runs and extra gear to finish off such gallops across the field. The room also features dual-threat back Duke Johnson, who left the University of Miami as the school's all-time leading rusher and can also catch plenty of passes out of the backfield.

That duo is solid, but the Browns bring a third component who could end up being the biggest difference. The addition of Kareem Hunt, who was a legitimate weapon in Kansas City's offense in 2018 before he was abruptly cut due to a pair of off-field incidents, rounds out the group as one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL.

Hunt spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since he signed with the Browns in early 2019, reiterating his remorse for his actions with the promise he won't make the same mistakes in the future. Mayfield approves of Hunt, calling him a "good kid" and even going as far as doing his own background on the former Chiefs star.

"Nothing but a lot of good things to say," Mayfield said Hunt's former teammates told him about the running back. "That's important. What your guys say about you in the locker room speaks more about you than anything you'll do on the field."

Their time together in the same locker room is just beginning, but come time for those cold-weather, late-season games, Hunt will be in the same backfield as Mayfield. In that moment, perhaps we'll stop hand-wringing about the wide receivers and focus on the guys receiving the handoffs. After all, as Mayfield alluded, it could be the difference between a playoff berth and another January spent at home.

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