Cleveland Browns: Gauging the Potential of Revamped Receiver Corps

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 3, 2012

There is a surprising reason for hope on offense for the Cleveland Browns in 2012.
There is a surprising reason for hope on offense for the Cleveland Browns in 2012.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

It's no secret that the Cleveland Browns have had a nightmarish time in recent years generating big plays in the passing game.

While some of that can be attributed to inconsistency at quarterback, the team has had a noticeable lack of playmakers on the outside.

Until now.

With the selection of former Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon, the Browns rounded out an offseason in which it got much better at its most glaring positional weakness.

Some of that improvement wasn't even due to any acquisitions GM Tom Heckert made.

Incumbent No. 1 wideout Greg Little had a relatively successful rookie season, despite having issues with drops. Most of those struggles can be attributed to rust having not played his entire senior season at the University of North Carolina.

2009 second-round pick Mohammed Massaquoi has been a disappointment.

Massaquoi does come into training camp healthy, according to, but is more suited for an outside receiver position than a slot role.

With Gordon in the fold, Massaquoi will be competing with him, Little and Josh Cribbs for time on the outside. However, as's Gregg Rosenthal reported back in June, Cribbs' role in the offense appears to be reducing.

All indications are that Massaquoi has a shot. Although Gordon is quickly establishing himself as a potential starter, Massaquoi hasn't been disappointing, according to's Marty Gitlin.

The slot receiver position looks to be a three-horse battle, with rookie speedster Travis Benjamin, undrafted free agent Josh Cooper and Jordan Norwood.

Cooper was QB Brandon Weeden's No. 2 target at Oklahoma State, and Benjamin is the fastest player on the team who managed to stay healthy throughout college despite his small frame.

Considering the comparisons to Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall already, it isn't out of the question that Gordon can have a 1,000-yard season.

Just look at another recent player who faced similar adversity coming out of college: Marques Colston.

As a seventh-round draft pick back in 2006, not much was expected from Colston.

However, playing with a new quarterback in Drew Brees who was also trying to prove himself, Colston shocked the league.

The New Orleans Saints struck gold late in the draft as Colston emerged as a 1,000-yard receiver in his first year.

Similarly, Gordon faced adversity coming to the pros this season. As part of Utah's scout team last season, Gordon probably faced similar competition as Colston did at Hofstra University.

As a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, Gordon faces similar concerns that Colston was saddled with. He is likely to start alongside a quarterback in Weeden who is trying to put doubters to rest that he can be a quality NFL starter despite being a soon-to-be 29-year-old rookie.

If Gordon can have that sort of impact, it should open up the field more for Little and whoever fills the slot receiver spot.

The Browns' offense may be run-oriented around this year's No. 3 overall pick, running back Trent Richardson.

However, based on a situation that now has a quarterback firmly in place and an influx of wide receiver talent, the offense could very well be more balanced than outsiders believe.

Maybe hope in Believeland will be more of a fulfilled reality this time around.