Josh Cooper will be fighting to be one of the team's six wide receivers.
"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, we take a look at which six receivers the team could end up keeping, and a couple of Dick Jauron's comments about the linebackers and the secondary.
In Pat Shurmur's final news conference, he noted that he typically likes to keep six receivers. That should not be too much or a surprise. Last year, the Browns started the year with Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Joshua Cribbs, Jordan Norwood, and Carlton Mitchell. The team eventually waived Robiskie to get down to five receivers, but that was only because the team was hurting at the running back position. If six receivers are kept to begin this season, who would they be? Little, Cribbs, and Travis Benjamin are my three locks. Based on the way he's been praised, I'd say Massaquoi is a lock too. I was a fan of Norwood's work to close out last season, and I'd like to see him in the slot. That's five receivers. The sixth spot would go to Mitchell, Josh Cooper, or Bert Reed.
Really, I think it comes down to Mitchell or Cooper. Mitchell got the shaft last season after an early injury, and the team has to like his potential. Think of it this way: why else would you not play a guy all year, but still keep him on the 53-man roster? He's got the size to be one of the biggest targets at the position, but he needs to have a great camp again to hold off a guy like Cooper. Cooper has the advantage of having chemistry with Weeden, but he might be receiving more passes from the likes of Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace in training camp, a period in which he'll need to be at his best.
The chances of either receiver contributing on game day might be slim, though, considering how far down on the depth chart they would be. Perhaps in an ideal world, both get retained: Mitchell as the No. 6 receiver, and Cooper if he makes it to the practice squad. Right now, I'd just put Cooper on the 53-man roster and say goodbye to Mitchell...if the team believes Mitchell's ceiling to begin the season is the No. 6 receiver. We can't be in developmental hell with this guy; eventually, you need to open that spot up to someone else who can actually move up the depth chart. Cooper can move up if the team prefers him in the slot over Norwood. Side note: don't read it as a negative that Cooper was taking reps as the backup holder on kicks during minicamp. When you're a roster camp invitee, versatility is a plus.
A few days ago, the Akron Beacon Journal had some quotes from defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. We haven't heard much about Kaluka Maiava this offseason, but that does not mean he is in jeopardy or anything. Although I thought he struggled when he first replaced Scott Fujita late last year, he seemed to improve with each game that went on. Jauron said that if Fujita's suspension holds, Maiava will be the guy he plans on inserting into the starting lineup. The rookies, Emmanuel Acho and James-Michael Johnson, will be working toward being backups.
The overwhelming praise for safety Eric Hagg continued through Jauron:
"We’re happy with Eric," Jauron said. " … I really like his intensity, really like his study habits, how into the game he is. I think he’s a really good teammate. He’s done a good job for us right now on the field."
While it sounds like we might not even have a competition of Hagg vs. Usama Young, it sounds like we've got ourselves a competition at cornerback. Jauron said that Dimitri Patterson would "absolutely" be considered for a starting role, but that he had confidence in Sheldon Brown being able to hold his ground. If Brown seems to have regressed in camp, though, Patterson could slip ahead. Jauron said that Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade would also compete for the nickel corner spot. No mention of James Dockery was made, even though he had an impressive showing at minicamp this past week.