The Cleveland Browns wide receiver corps has never been this stacked. That being said, not only does it have seemingly boundless potential, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty that goes with it.
There are questions about Corey Coleman’s health. About Josh Gordon staying on the field for 16 games. Jarvis Landry’s contract. Antonio Callaway’s past. And Ricardo Louis – will he be able to catch at all?
If the Browns can find answers to all the questions, their chances of success will be far greater than it has been for years. Of course, the opposite can be said if the franchise doesn’t tie up these loose ends.
Before we can even discuss the receivers, we need to start with the quarterback. According to Peter King of FanSided, it’s “critical.” Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield can likely provide the forceful dynamic needed for cohesion between themselves and their receivers.
Cleveland Browns’ Wide Receivers: Lots of Potential, Lots of Uncertainty
On the field, there’s not much he can’t do. But as much as we don’t want to admit it, what he does off the field, affects what he does on it. Gordon needs discipline and he needs to develop healthy habits. At this point, he does have star quality – he’s Cleveland’s top offensive threat, a versatile receiver who can make plays at every level of the field. In fact, King says Gordon “is the guy defensive coordinators must design their gameplan around”.
He’s a slot receiver and has better blocking abilities than his counterparts. But there’s still a big question mark over where he fits. He has been poorly matched against excellent boundary cornerbacks, and despite his athleticism, has a limited route tree. His running game though is excellent. Analysts believe with tight end David Njoku and running back Duke Johnson doing much of the same things, Landry will struggle to reach 100 catches he used to enjoy with the Miami Dolphins. Be prepared to see Landry in a less featured role.
Breaking his hand in back-to-back seasons has hindered Coleman’s chances of success. However, with his injuries behind him, it’s clear he’s a much-improved route runner. He is understandably hesitant when dealing with balls flying at him, opting to let most of them hit his body, instead of catching them cleanly. With a full off-season of training, we can only hope he’ll be confident, consistent and have a bigger catch radius. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley prefers attacking down the field and using receiver screens. Coleman’s agility means he could play a big part in both.
Higgins is similar in many ways to Landry. Perhaps “mediocre,” but can fully unlock his potential by getting open and making big plays. The highlight of his career was the two touchdowns he made to conclude last season. The only way Higgins makes the roster will be as a backup slot receiver, and only if he’s seen as valuable.
Louis is gifted physically, yet in his three years of professional play, hasn’t made much of an impact at all. He is inconsistent and struggles to catch. As Nathan Zegura of Browns Daily pointed out, Louis hasn’t caught any passes at all. It won’t be a surprise if Haley’s predilection for him isn’t enough to keep him on Cleveland’s roster.
Callaway is a running back turned receiver and has that physicality, so he’s good with a ball, and he creates separation too. While Jabrill Peppers and Landry are both more than adequate as punt returners, it seems the Browns would love for that job to go to Callaway. He’s also a real threat attacking down the field and running screens. Whether or not he keeps his word about being a new person off the field, we have yet to see, but the Browns are simply hoping he will add some quality to their offense.
Damian Ratley and Jeff Janis
Ratley is a rookie. Janis was released by the Green Bay Packers. The former is up for the same role as Callaway, known for running screens and attacking deep, but it seems at this point that the Browns will place him on the practice squad. Janis is athletic, but he didn’t produce significantly in the NFL. It’s possible he’ll finish his career on special teams.
The average NFL team has nine wide receivers on the roster, but according to King, the Browns will likely have six. This is one explosive group of receivers and the outcome could be something great. Gordon, Coleman, Landry, and Callaway will make the roster, and the final two spots will probably be a fight between Louis, Janis and Higgins. As long as Cleveland’s receiver corps is reliable and consistent, we can expect a very good year.