3 Browns Players Who Need to Step Up in October

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIOctober 6, 2021

3 Browns Players Who Need to Step Up in October

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns have won three straight games and sit in a three-way tie atop the AFC North at 3-1 with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. That doesn't mean the Browns are playing their best football, though. They still have plenty of room for improvement.

    The past two weeks, Cleveland's defense has been powering it to victory. Between a pair of wins over the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, the unit has allowed only 13 points and 302 total yards. The Browns have recorded 12 sacks and forced one turnover.

    But if Cleveland is going to keep winning games, it will likely need improvement in other areas, particularly on offense. The Browns are looking for their second consecutive playoff appearance, and in order to get there, they'll need to build off their early-season momentum for the next 14 games.

    Here's a look at three players who Cleveland will need to step up in October as it looks to take control of the division and set itself up for a strong second half.

Baker Mayfield, QB

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    There's arguably no player more important to the offense's success than Mayfield, who has had his ups and downs over his first four NFL seasons. This year, he's gotten off to a bit of a slow start, having passed for 935 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in four games.

    Mayfield had his toughest performance yet in the Browns' Week 4 win over the Vikings, as he went 15-for-33 for 155 yards. Because of the strong running game and the dominant defense, Cleveland still won. But many times it likely won't be victorious when Mayfield is that inefficient.

    However, there are plenty of times when Mayfield plays much better. He's flashed it at times this season, such as when he aired it out for 321 yards in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. He just needs to be more consistent and avoid having his lows reach the level it did this past Sunday.

    If the Browns are going to keep winning games and also put up impressive offensive numbers, they need Mayfield to be the leader and help this unit move in the right direction. And considering Cleveland faces some solid defenses this month, Mayfield will need to be on top of his game for that to happen.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Mayfield can't have success if he's not getting help from his wide receivers. And this is a group that has struggled over the first four weeks of the season, especially after losing Jarvis Landry to a knee injury that put him on injured reserve.

    Beckham has only been back for two weeks, as he missed the first two games of the year while still recovering from the left ACL tear that ended his 2020 season. It's been clear he's still getting back in the groove, as his production so far has been modest—seven catches for 104 yards.

    That was to be expected, but the Browns will need him to get it going in October in order for their passing game to reach its potential. Cleveland hasn't been getting much production out of its other receivers, such as Rashard Higgins, Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones, so Beckham putting up big numbers would be a tremendous boost.

    In three seasons with the Browns, Beckham hasn't played as well as he did over his first five years with the New York Giants. But he's still only 28, and if he can start to build a better connection with Mayfield, it would give Cleveland's passing attack a much-needed upgrade.

Wyatt Teller, OG

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Browns' offensive line could be down a starter moving forward, as left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. exited their Week 4 game with an ankle injury. It's unclear how much time Wills could miss at this point, but the left side of the O-line will still be anchored by guard Joel Bitonio.

    As for the right side of Cleveland's offensive line, it needs to perform better. And that includes the play of Teller, who had emerged as a reliable starter over the previous two seasons.

    Last week, Teller had a Pro Football Focus grade of 65.4, while right tackle Jack Conklin's grade was a 68.0 (h/t Cleveland.com's Scott Patsko). Any grade from 60-69 on the scale equates to the play of a backup, so it's clear that the two were the weaker side of the offensive line.

    Both need to play better, especially if Wills misses time and the quality of play on the other side of the Browns' O-line takes a hit. If Teller can return to the form he showed last season, then it will help Cleveland get better in all facets of its offense.