Turning Weakness Into Strength: A Look at the Browns' Wide Receivers
The Cleveland Browns started the off-season with a weak, starving receiver corps. The final six games of the regular season failed to yield a single offensive touchdown.
However, through free agency and the draft, the front office has made what was once a weakness, potentially a strength. With mini-camps underway, we're looking at perhaps the best group we've had in decades.
1. Braylon Edwards
Edwards has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the entire off-season. Coming off a disappointing 2008 season, with a foot injury effecting his mentality and performance.
Braylon only managed to haul in 55 receptions for 873 yards and 3 TD's, far undercutting his 2007 performance of 80 catches for 1,289 yards and a staggering 16 TD's.
With no team stepping up to the plate to make a trade offer high enough for Edwards, and a contract year looming on the horizon, look for him to redeem himself this season in a return to form and a dominant No. 1 receiver.
2. Mike Furrey
A six-year veteran of the Rams and Lions, Mike Furrey is more than what presents itself on the surface. The 32-year-old had a fantastic year in 2006 before the arrival of the highly athletic, franchise receiver Calvin Johnson. He hauled in 98 passes for 1,086 yards in a career year while posting six TD's.
After Johnson started to break out, Furrey saw considerably less action in 2007, but still posted a respectable 61 catches for 664 yards. 2008, injuries plagued Furrey for the first time in three seasons, only starting in 2 games for a horrible Detroit team.
Being healthy again, there's no reason to think Furrey won't be a solid No. 2 receiver behind Edwards. Provided there's a competent passer this year, I would look for Furrey to post 60 catches for 600 yards.
3. David Patten
Another low-risk, high-gain veteran receiver. Falling off the radar of most teams after an injury-filled season, Patten is a potential deep threat. In his career, Patten averages a 14.6 yard average and in his last healthy season (2007) saw him snagging 54 balls for 792 yards from the Saints' Drew Brees.
While his age of 34 is a factor, with the low-salary and short-term contract, he could easily be a valuable asset to the Browns receiver core this season. His valuable experience should be to the benefit of '09 draft picks Robiskie and Massaquoi.
4. Brian Robiskie
The 2009 draft pick out of Ohio State University, Robiskie is by all means a hometown boy. A former ball boy for the Browns, a native of Cleveland, and attending a home-state college powerhouse, it doesn't make for a more fitting receiver.
Robiskie was scouted as the most polished receiver in the draft, going in the second round at No. 36. He put up impressive numbers in school, despite a less than successful quarterback at the helm.
He weighs in at 209 pounds, standing at 6'3, with a vertical leap of 37.5 inches. While not a deep threat, he's capable of making big plays with his precise route running and consistent hands. In time he should be the Browns permanent No. 2 receiver.
5. Mohammad Massaquoi
The No. 1 threat of Matthew Stafford, the top draft pick this year, out of Georgia. Massaquoi is a second round draft pick and he's a smart and hardworking player, a key staple of an Eric Mangini pickup.
In his first three years at Georgia, he had a problem dropping easy passes, something that is all too familiar to Browns fans.
In 2008 however, the team captain had a breakout year and put together a career season, with the dropped passes finally down to a minimum.
If he lives up to his potential, his strength and ability to shed tackles for yardage after the catch, should make him a formidable threat to the opposing defense.
6. Joshua Cribbs
A jack-of-all-trades, Cribbs' biggest fault is his willingness to try and do it all. While nobody can question his heart, his explosiveness and big-play making ability were severely hindered last season by an over usage of his skills.
In 2007 when he was primarily a special teams threat, Cribbs excelled as one of the best kick returners in the game, running 2 TD's back, and had 59 returns for 1,809 yards.
There was talk that Cribbs could be used in a safety role this season, but that was also before the acquisition of Abram Elam of the New York Jets. Elam, Pool, and Adams should keep Cribbs thankfully out of yet another role.
I would expect to see Cribbs, who is still unproven as a receiver, used primarily for gadget plays and continuing his role on kick returns.
7. Syndric Steptoe
It was apparent when he was drafted that the speedy Steptoe could be used in a variety of roles, running a 40 yard dash in in 4.41 seconds.
Steptoe showed promise last year in a kick return role, its very possible he could be used dominantly on special teams this season with occasional deep pass routes.
His unsteady hands however make him a liability on the field with his penchant for drops. Last season, in limited use, he caught 19 balls for 182 yards.
8. Paul Hubbard
Hubbard is a project receiver. His athletic ability was too much to pass up in the draft, and it'll be the job of the coaching staff to put the 6'4, 213 pound route-runner to good use.
He runs a 40 in 4.38 seconds and has a vertical leap of 39.5 inches, making him a threat at any level. The ceiling on Hubbard is never-ending.
You can make the argument that each one of these eight receivers have their problems, but the potential of these eight men is limitless.
If all goes well, the Browns could very well be one of the best receiver corps in the NFL this season.
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