When the Cleveland Browns open the 2013 NFL regular season, they will do so without their emerging receiver in Josh Gordon. Gordon has been suspended for two games after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, leaving a major void as the best vertical threat amongst the receiving corps.
With Gordon's suspension, the Browns have to return to square one—working with a group of receivers and tight ends who haven't shown the capability of emerging as No. 1 threats in the near future.
Though, if the Browns are going to receive production from other talent on the roster, the first prime candidate to do so is tight end Jordan Cameron.
Cameron will have a plethora of opportunities in an offense directed by head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who both are known for using tight ends frequently in their offensive sets.
Labeled at 6'5, 246 lbs, Cameron brings both the height and quick feet that can make him effective in the middle of the field. As a former fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Cameron has not displayed much production to determine if he could ever become a fortified offensive threat.
However, there is plenty of optimism about his improvement with the new offensive scheme. ProFootballFocus's Bryan Fontaine envisions Cameron producing in a similar way to another recent blossoming tight end.
He could also become very effective in the play-action passing game, as second-year running back Trent Richardson demands attention from the front seven. Thus, Cameron could face some favorable one-on-one matchups with shorter linebackers. He has been viewed as a breakout candidate in 2013 along with Gordon.
In fact, the absence of Gordon could turn out to be a good thing for Cameron. By becoming the focal point of the offense early on, he can capitalize on the chance to improve chemistry with Brandon Weeden and potentially emerge as the No. 1 target in the Browns passing game.
Among the group of young receivers, the most likely to replace Gordon's production is Greg Little. The former UNC Tar Heel has struggled to be a consistent target for the few Browns quarterbacks he has worked with over the years.
His inability to become a major threat vertically is a concern, but 2013 could be the year where he puts his full potential on display. Little has shown that explosiveness down the field during offseason activities.
Ultimately, the Browns are a young, growing team that will rely heavily on its starters to improve significantly in 2013.