The Cleveland Browns made a point to not select a wide receiver in the 2012 NFL draft until the fourth round, a clear indication that they believe Greg Little can be a No. 1 receiver for the team this season.
As a rookie last year, Little struggled mightily with consistency, dropping passes at an alarming rate. Despite this, Little managed to catch 61 passes for 709 yards and two touchdowns. Most impressive of all was his 11.6 yards-per-catch average.
As the Browns kicked off OTAs this week, many were anticipating Little’s arrival to see how he has spent his first full offseason.
Little reportedly showed up 11pounds lighter than his listed playing weight last season, which he says makes him feel like he is in the best shape of his life.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur praised Little’s physical conditioning. More importantly, he says there has been a noticeable amount of increased consistency when passes are thrown in his direction:
"I've seen him look a lot quicker, a lot more sudden," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I think to this point he's caught the ball at a more consistent rate. He just looks like a different guy to me, a guy that's been through it once. To his credit, he's done a really nice job of getting his body in the right kind of shape he needs to be in to be a receiver in this league."
While Shurmur’s endorsement and Little’s improved physical condition are encouraging, it has to be noted that it is still extremely early in the offseason.
Little is showing an improved ability to catch the ball consistently, but not with the threat of a defender laying him out after the catch. It will likely take until at least the preseason to decide if Little has made strides in terms of consistency.
The same can be said about his physical condition. Little is lighter and appearing quicker running his routes, but only time will tell if he will be able to elude defenders at the line of scrimmage to break open.
Little appears to be putting in the hard work to be a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL. As of now, things are looking great. Little is doing everything within his power to be the receiver the organization thought he could be, and that is nothing but a good thing for the future of the franchise.