By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Countdown to training camp (cont.): We begin our twice-a-day breakdown of the Browns’ training camp roster leading up to the first practice on Saturday.
Position: Wide receivers.
Overview: This position has been a team weakness since Braylon Edwards descended after his spectacular 2007 season and was traded in the middle of 2009. The Browns have defended their receivers and placed the blame for a horrible year on inaccurate throws and failure of the quarterbacks to connect with open men. They have no explanation for a league-high number of drops, other than to say the malady is correctable. The team hired ex-Mike Holmgren aide Nolan Cromwell in the offseason as a senior offensive assistant and quietly assigned him to work with assistant Mike Wilson exclusively with the receivers.
Projected keepers on final roster: Six.
Projected starters: 15 Greg Little and 86 Josh Gordon.
Others in camp (alphabetically): 80 Travis Benjamin, 88 Josh Cooper, 16 Josh Cribbs, 11 Mohamed Massaquoi, 18 Carlton Mitchell, 10 Jordan Norwood, 83 Bert Reed, 85 Jermaine Saffold, 17 Owen Spencer, 13 Rod Windsor.
Newcomers to watch: At 6-3 and 225 pounds, Gordon is the most physically imposing. He has long arms, large hands and reputedly no history of drops. Benjamin was one of the faster players in the draft and rivals CB Buster Skrine as the fastest on the team. Cooper was QB Brandon Weeden’s second-favorite target at Oklahoma State and is experienced running crossing routes over the middle. The question is whether he can take the pounding of NFL safeties.
Holdovers on the bubble: Massaquoi, Mitchell and Norwood.
Don’t be surprised if: Gordon, who hasn't played since the 2010 season at Baylor, needs time to claim a starting spot … Cribbs retreats to a specialty role on offense … Cooper edges out Norwood for the slot receiver role … Mitchell makes the last roster spot a very tough call.
Why it’s better: Gordon (elite athletic skills) and Benjamin (elite speed) bring qualities that were lacking in last year’s group. The holdovers have a year’s experience in the West Coast system. Little won’t be as rusty.
What needs to happen: Gordon must hit the ground running and be able to learn the sophisticated routes he didn’t run at Baylor. Little must eliminate the drops. You simply can’t drop 14 balls a year. Massaquoi can make things interesting if he lives up to the organization’s call for him to step up in his fourth season.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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