Cleveland Browns' wide receiver Travis Benjamin has a torn ACL and will have surgery soon, according to head coach Rob Chudzinski. Benjamin suffered the injury when fielding a punt during the third quarter this past Sunday against the Chiefs; he tried to do a couple of spin moves on the return, but then went down and was writhing in pain.
This is a huge blow for the Browns from a playmaking aspect. Although he wasn't being featured much at receiver, he was the type of player who showed he could be a difference maker in several games per season due to his speed on punt returns. Benjamin could be out up to a year, and even then, you don't know if he'll have the same explosiveness. Here are a few notes to consider regarding the punt return position now:
- Although WR Davone Bess fumbled in a critical situation against the Chiefs on a punt return, Chudzinski was adamant that he would assume punt return duties. Bess has returned 118 punts in his career with an average of 10.2 yards per return. He's never had one returned for a touchdown, though, and isn't seen as an explosive return man.
- Chudzinski said that the team would also give CB Joe Haden a look on punt returns. I don't think the Browns want him regularly fulfilling that role, but if Cleveland needs a big play late in a game, I could see them taking a shot with Haden.
- Some fans were wondering if the Browns could use RB Fozzy Whittaker as the punt returner, but Whittaker said he's never returned punts and therefore would not be comfortable doing so.
The Browns' other options would be to promote WR Josh Cooper from the practice squad, sign former Browns WR Jordan Norwood, or add another return specialist. The Browns will have two roster spots opening soon, with Benjamin set to land on injured reserve, as well as WR Charles Johnson. Returning OG Jason Pinkston could fill one of those spots, and the Browns might add a receiver to take the other spot.