With the Titans rolling into town for the opener in less than two weeks, Beckham returned to team drills on Monday for the first time in three weeks, in part because of a hip injury.
Looking like his quick, shifty, sure-handed self, Beckham caught short, deep and intermediate routes from Mayfield in 11-on-11s and also worked overtime with him off to the side.
“He looked good,’’ Kitchens said after practice, which is now closed to the public since camp broke last week. “It’s good to have him back out. We’ve been working on the side with him with other things. It’s just the natural progression, so it was good to have him back.’’
Even before Aug. 6, Beckham rested during a lot of team periods and hasn’t had many live reps with Mayfield. He hasn’t taken a snap in a preseason game, and will sit out Thursday’s preseason finale against the Lions. He also skipped voluntary OTAs and the extra minicamp while he processed the traded from New York.
But he’s been relentless on the JUGS machine, and he’s put in extra time with Mayfield whenever they can.
“They’ve been working through the whole camp as it is,’’ Kitchens said. “Just because he wasn’t in team drills doesn’t mean they weren’t working. It’s fairly easy, you learn where to line up, learn what to do, learn the depth and the area you’re supposed to be in, and you’ve got it just about figured out. I think he’s a smart guy and he’s coming along.’’
But Kitchens cautioned that he doesn’t want Mayfield and Beckham going off script too much to make up for lost time.
“We don’t want to overwork him right now,’’ he said. “We haven’t started playing yet. We haven’t even gotten into game planning and stuff like that. But they’ll definitely be on top of their game when we start game planning and timing and stuff like that, rather than just useless things that doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, it’s exactly what I said, it’s knowing where to line up, where to be, getting to your depth and then catching the ball. After that, you get the ball in his hands and see what he can do.’’
He said Beckham’s huge catch radius doesn’t mean Mayfield has a lot of margin for error.
“No, we still want to be accurate as the quarterback because now you start talking about run-after-catch opportunities and stuff like that,’’ he said. “So accuracy is always at the forefront of everything we do.’’
Not only was Beckham back, tight end David Njoku returned to team drills after a long layoff. It was a far cry from the offense that went out and laid an egg during Friday night’s 13-12 loss to the Bucs, with Mayfield completing only 10-of-26 attempts for 72 yards and one interception en route to a 30.6 rating.
“Not to make it sound minuscule to have them back,’’ Kitchens said. “Of course, they’re back and of course it’s nice to have them back, but the expectation is that you run your routes properly. The other night, from quarterback, to running back to tight ends — I don’t want to leave anybody out — if they played offense, just assume I’m talking about them.
“We didn’t do very much the way we were supposed to do it and we didn’t do a good enough job coaching them because it didn’t get done. So all of that is in the process of getting rectified. I feel like it got rectified. Now, what ability does for you is it covers up some of the other things. Now we’ve got to get to the point where that will take effect. So yes, it’s nice to have ‘em out there, but our work’s not done by any stretch of the imagination.’’