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Browns 2012 review: Wide receivers and tight ends

Jan 10, 2013 -- 6:00am

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By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

2012 position review: With all the post-season attention riveted on the Browns’ football operations overhaul, not much has been paid to the players. After the coach and personnel director are found, the roster will get a thorough review. This is the third in a periodic series analyzing the Browns’ position groups.

Position: Wide receiver and tight ends.

Players under contract (through year): Travis Benjamin (2015), Jordan Cameron (’14), Josh Cooper (’13), Josh Gordon (’15), Greg Little (’14), Brad Smelley (’13).

Players not under contract: Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Jordan Norwood, Alex Smith, Ben Watson.

Total snaps (incl. special teams): Watson, 914; Little, 909; Gordon, 817; Smith, 419; Cameron, 417; Cribbs, 398; Benjamin, 313; Massaquoi, 252; Cooper, 86; Norwood, 77; Smelley, 44.

Most common starters: Gordon, Little, Watson.

Analysis: After years of painful mediocrity, the receiver position showed signs of growth. Little (53) and Gordon (50) had more combined receptions than any pair of wideouts since 2007.  Gordon was the big revelation. Among rookie receivers, he was third league-wide in receptions, third in yards (805), second in yards per catch (16.1) and tied for second in TDs (five). Unfortunately, Gordon’s one major drop in Indianapolis cost the team a victory in perhaps the turning-point game. Gordon’s numbers tailed off at the end when he was asked to run too many short crossing routes and the quarterback repeatedly failed to connect with him on longer routes on which he was open. Gordon hadn’t played in two years, reported to camp out of shape because of a late decision to enter the supplemental draft, and looked sluggish at times in training camp. When his work ethic caught up to his elite skills, he became the clear No. 1 and raised expectations for future years. Gordon’s emergence took the pressure off Little and resulted in a significant decrease in dropped passes by him. Cribbs fell off the map as a receiver; only 62 of his total snaps came on offense. In his contract year, Massaquoi had his worst season in four because of repeated injuries. The new regime almost cut him before the end of the season. He most certainly will not be back. Benjamin showed rare speed, but his durability and reliability were concerns. Cooper and Norwood had similar skills fit for a slot receiver. Cooper seemed more durable. Watson made a lot of plays after the quarterback discovered the tight end position late in the season. Once thought to be a strength, the tight end position needs to be reassessed. Watson and Smith may not be back and Cameron’s durability was questionable.

Bottom line: Gordon, Little, Benjamin and Cooper form a good foundation for the future, but a quality, professional veteran remains an obvious need.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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