The Cleveland Browns have made a few major renovations over the off-season, and while Johnny Manziel will rule the training camp news, the receivers on the depth chart should get significant media attention. They’ll be battling for snaps and spots throughout the end of summer. Nothing is set in stone, and that’s what’s going to make this race one of the best in the AFC North.
On paper, the team’s moves can be translated in a variety of ways. The fact is pretty simple this year – the depth chart is very “hit or miss”. There aren’t any locks, something that could ultimately bring concern as Cleveland approaches the season.
Here’s a breakdown of what the Browns are facing as we approach the start of training camp.
The team learned before the 2014 NFL Draft that Gordon would be suspended for the entire 2014 season. For a guy that put up 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, it’s pretty safe to say Gordon will be missed.
Expect the Browns coaching staff to put a lot of eggs in the Hawkins basket this year. His performance might decide the ultimate fate of the offensive production this season. Being the top guy this year is going to come with pretty high expectations, and Hawkins has to figure out a game-plan to make every play big.
If he can stay healthy, Hawkins might have a big year. It’s evident that the coaching staff feels that he has the “it factor” to be the number-one guy – something he showed flashes of when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. He goes hard on every play, fitting the need during big AFC North games. It’s easy to see him breaking out if all goes as planned leading up to the season.
On the surface, this seems to be a fantastic addition that works out well for everyone involved. Ultimately however, the Dallas Cowboys might be the only team benefiting from this move.
When I turned on the tape to totally dissect Austin’s game, I came away less than impressed. Not only do I worry that he won’t stay healthy, I have hesitations that he won’t want to compete in the AFC North. Too many times I saw plays where he was essentially looking to get tackled. He doesn’t possess the fire needed to compete in this division, and that concerns me.
Austin shows good flashes, but I can’t imagine he lasts a full 16 for the Browns. In fact, don’t be shocked if he gets leapfrogged on the depth chart by a few guys early on.
Here’s one of those “upside” picks I have in 2014.
If there’s one prediction that I feel pretty good about with the Browns, it’s one that says Burleson is going to have a very good season in Cleveland.
I love the fact that he’s still able to play at a high level in his 12th year. He proves that when a player is all-in, he can still have a profitable year on the gridiron. He’s not the biggest guy, but his shiftiness and ability to make plays will give him a chance to put up big numbers in 2014.
Don’t be shocked if Burleson becomes a crucial part of this offense down the stretch, even getting a chance to become the leading scorer in the receiving corps by the end of the year.
This is pretty simple, so I’ll keep it quick.
I really like Benjamin, but I’m hesitant about the ACL recovery that he’s still facing. The procedure was done in November – meaning he should be good to go for the preseason, but I still don’t trust that he’s going to be ready to go once the team opens up in September. He’s primarily a return specialist, meaning he won’t make much of an impact on the offensive side of the football if the coaching staff wants him returning kicks all year.
He’s an asset on special teams, so I don’t expect the offensive scheme to include much of Benjamin in 2014. ACLs are nothing to play around with.
WILLIE SNEAD AND CHANDLER JONES
This pair of rookies will have their chance to impress and make the depth chart, so don’t count them out just yet.
Snead did some special things at Ball State. If he can stay healthy and focus on out-working his competiton, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him in a fight for a spot on the 53-man roster towards the end of training camp.
Jones was a bit rustier in college, so I’m not ready to call him a contender just yet. While I think he may have a future in the league, a stint on the practice squad might be the best thing scenario right now.