The Browns just finished another double-digit loss season and questions abound throughout the roster. Are the Browns heading in the right direction? Do the Browns have a core to build around?
The OBR is breaking down the Browns current roster position-by-position. In the third in the series, we will take a look at the wide receivers.
Many Browns fans would agree that the current Browns wide receiving corps is the weakest link on the offense. Many felt that last year in the off-season and thought that would be the primary area of focus either in free agency, trades or in the draft. The Browns chose to not sign any free agents or make any trades. Even during the season when Brandon Lloyd was made expendable by the Broncos for a sixth-round draft choice they chose to stand pat. The only notable addition to the receiving corps was the drafting of Greg Little in the second-round last April.
Rather than add weapons to the offense with a young quarterback in Colt McCoy, the Browns chose to let the young receivers play and see what they could do.
They found out they couldn't do much.
The Browns receivers combined to have just nine touchdowns—the whole season! They only had 16 plays all season that totaled more than 25 yards.
Brian Robiskie couldn't get open in the offense and the Browns let him go midway through the season. He opened the season as the starter and only caught three passes before he was released. The other starter, Mohamed Massaquoi battled injuries throughout the season and caught just 31 passes for 384 yards (12.4 avg.) and had just two touchdowns. Massaquoi has suffered two concussions and his ability to stay healthy is beginning to be an issue.
When Little took over for Robiskie, he showed the most promise. Little dropped the most passes on the team, but improved in that area as the season progressed. He led the team with 61 receptions for 709 yards (11.6 avg.) with two touchdowns. For a player who sat out the 2010 season for violating NCAA rules at North Carolina, he improved immensely from the preseason to the end of the season.
Josh Cribbs had his biggest season at receiver with 41 catches for 518 yards (12.6 avg.) and four touchdowns. He was arguably the team's biggest play maker at wide receiver.
Jordan Norwood emerged this season as a viable threat. Norwood had just two receptions in the first six games and then had 21 in the next eight games. He finished with 23 receptions for 268 yards (11.7 avg.) with one touchdown. Norwood missed the final two games with a concussion and although he showed the ability to get open, his durability could be an issue.
Carlton Mitchell has the size and speed that NFL personnel people like, but Mitchell didn't make his first NFL catch until the 15th game. He finished with three receptions for 31 yards, including a 19-yard reception against the Steelers in the season finale.
Rod Windsor showed promise in training camp and spent most of the season on the practice squad before being added to the roster for the end of the season. He did not see any game action.
Bottom Line: Mike Holmgren said the team needs to add ‘to the pile' at the wide receiver position. That seems to be an understatement. The Browns need to add at least one elite receiver. If they were to add a top-flight receiver--better than any on the current roster--the current group would look much better. Little could be a very good second receiver with Cribbs and Massaquoi solid three and four guys. Norwood could be in the mix, as well.
The quick route would be to sign an unrestricted free agent. Currently, there are several slated to be free agents, although teams can sign them before March 13 or franchise them. Currently, some of the names that would fit their template as young receivers are: Lloyd, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston and Wes Welker to name a few. The Browns have the money to throw at a well thought out option.
If not, another route would be to use one of their first-round choices on one of the premier receivers in the draft in either Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, if the Browns think either can do for them what A.J. Green did for the Bengals' offense.
(Next: We'll take a look at the tight end position.)