BEREA, Ohio — The NFL season that close friends and former LSU teammates Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. envisioned playing, the one where they shredded secondaries, dominated and qualified for the playoffs together, didn't materialize in 2019.
Not even close. An incompletion, so to speak.
Both Browns wide receivers played hurt, hampering their abilities to make game-altering plays or to produce many wins in Cleveland, where high expectations dissolved into another double-digit loss season and more tumult.
Maybe 2020, with all its craziness, will be their year.
“I definitely have been looking forward to it,” Landry said.
Health was a major issue for Landry and Beckham last season, and the pair still managed to top 1,000 yards receiving despite not being at full speed.
Both underwent surgeries this winter — Landry on his hip in February, Beckham on a core muscle in January — and the duo arrived at training camp this summer looking and acting much more like their perennial Pro Bowl selves.
“Confidence is up for the boys,” defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. "Just hoping that those guys go in there and score a lot of touchdowns.”
Landry has enjoyed seeing Beckham running precise routes, cutting on a dime and swiping passes from the air with one hand and without any limitations.
“Being able to have the confidence that a guy like he has, and to be able to come out here each and every day and use his gifts and not feel hindered or not feel restricted by anything that might be going on with his body,” Landry said. "So it is good to see him out here making plays, dominating. That is really what I see from him so far.”
Beckham's injury prevented him from practicing throughout most of last season. There were weeks when he was only able to participate in a few plays late in a game week with the first-team offence .
It was hardly ideal for him or the Browns, who expected his acquisition from the New York Giants, to make them contenders.
“It is crazy for me to look back and think about kind of just how I made it through the season last year because there were little motions that I could not even do,” said Beckham, who finished with 74 catches for 1,034 yards and four touchdowns. “I could not pull my leg up on the table. I could not do simple basic motions, much less go against the best of the best week in and week out.”
Landry's recovery from the hip operation has gone as hoped. The Browns have closely monitored the 27-year-old, giving him days off to rest and lessen any stress on his repaired hip.
He's not yet 100% but getting there after a frustrating grind, and Landry indicated Thursday he may be limited in Sunday's opener at Baltimore.
"It’s one of those things the further out that I get from surgery, the better I’ll continue to feel,” he said.
Not being able to practice affected the way Landry went into games last year. Still, he never sat out and is proud to have not missed a game in six pro seasons.
“You have to play through injuries and you have to play through things,” said Landry, who has caught at least 81 passes every year. "I embraced that last season. I am looking forward to having a season where I can actually be out there practicing more and not worried about an injury and be able to take the field on Sunday with a clear head and just going out there and make plays.”
With Beckham, Landry, proven running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, tight end Austin Hooper and a rebuilt offensive line, the Browns have surrounded quarterback Baker Mayfield with a group of playmakers as talented as any in the league.
It's up to Mayfield, coach Kevin Stefanski and co-ordinator Alex Van Pelt to figure out who gets the ball — and when.
Beckham was matter of fact when asked what he hoped Cleveland's offensive identity would be.
“Score points,” he said.
NOTES: Stefanski still hasn't revealed if he or Van Pelt will call plays this season. ... The Browns will have a different captain — selected by Stefanksi — for all 16 games. "My message to the players is you do not need a ‘C’ on your chest to be a great leader,” he said. ... Starting CB Greedy Williams (shoulder) remains sidelined and will likely miss the opener. CB Kevin Johnson (lacerated liver), LB Mack Wilson (hyperextended knee) and T Chris Hubbard (ankle) also missed practice.
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Tom Withers, The Associated Press