Browns 2014 outlook: Finding a complement to Gordon
Editor’s note: Browns beat reporter Fred Greetham will break down the Browns roster on a position-by-position basis, with the third part looking at the wide receiver position.
Wide Receivers (Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Davone Bess, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper, Tori Gurley, Brian Tyms, Charles Johnson)
Gordon (6-3, 225, 22) — Gordon had a magnificent season with 87 receptions for 1,646 yards, including nine touchdowns. Gordon averaged 117.6 yards receiving per game. He had the second- and fourth-highest receiving yardage totals in the NFL season this year with 261 yards against the Jaguars and 237 yards against the Steelers. Gordon was named to his first Pro Bowl team and was also first team All-Pro.
Little (6-2, 220, 24) — Little had his lowest production in his three years with the Browns. He had just 41 receptions for 465 yards with just two touchdowns. His longest catch was for 47 yards. Little’s numbers have declined in each of his three seasons and it might be time for the Browns to look elsewhere for a No. 2 receiver.
Bess (5-10,195, 28) — Bess was acquired in a draft day trade and was purported to be the go to guy on third down. Bess had the most dropped passes on the team and was near the top in the NFL in the dubious honor. After 14 games, Bess was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list after the 14th game. He finished the season with just 42 receptions for 362 yards with just two touchdowns. His longest catch of the season was just for 20 yards. Bess’ production was the lowest of his six-year NFL career. It is unknown what personal issues caused Bess to get shut down for the final two weeks of the season, but the Browns have to determine if he will be able to put 2013 behind him and rebound to the production he had before joining the Browns.
Benjamin (5-10, 175, 24) — Benjamin suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the eighth game of the season. Benjamin was a game-breaking type of player, especially as a punt and kick returner. Benjamin only caught five passes, but averaged 21 yards a reception. He also rushed one time for 45 yards. He had an 86-yard kickoff return and a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Cooper (5-10, 190, 25) — Cooper finished the season with nine receptions for 60 yards, including five catches for 34 yards in the season finale with the Steelers.
Gurley (6-4, 230, 26) — Gurley caught one pass for 15 yards and finished the season on the practice squad.
Tyms (6-3, 204, 24) — Tyms was signed off the Dolphins’ practice squad and spent seven weeks with the Browns. He caught two passes for 12 yards.
Johnson (6-2, 215, 24) — Johnson was signed off of the Packers’ practice squad and added to the active roster. However, it was discovered that he had a torn ACL and never played for the Browns.
Summary: Other than Gordon’s breakout season, the rest of the receiving corps was for the most part non-existent. Other than the win over the Ravens, Little and Bess did very little to complement Gordon. The emergence of Gordon was most impressive because he didn’t really have another receiver that posed a threat and the Browns running game was lackluster, not to mention he had three different quarterbacks throwing him the ball.
Looking Ahead: The Browns need to add a receiver to complement Gordon. The return of Benjamin as a deep threat can make Gordon all the more dangerous, but the coaching staff has to find a way to use Benjamin in the offense. The use of a high draft choice or a free agent acquisition would be a wise move to upgrade the offense and make Gordon an even more effective weapon.