Last year, the Browns brought 10 wide receivers to training camp. Not including Braylon Edwards, let's take a look at some of the names on that list, including where I ranked them and their contributions:
2. Donte Stallworth: Injury-plagued, could barely match Tim Carter's production.
3. Travis Wilson: Didn't even make the team.
4. Kevin Kasper: Went on injured reserve before the season started.
9. Syndric Steptoe: Ended up being our No. 2 receiver, and played like the ninth best receiver from training camp.
I don't think I'm reaching when I say that our wide receiver position was pathetic last season. This year, we haven't added any other big-name receivers, but we have stayed in line with Mangini's philosophies at other positions: adding several sound veterans and having some youth from the early rounds of the draft. Will that pay dividends? Let's hope so, as this week is titled "see ball, catch ball...and block". The blocking part relates more so to the tight ends (which will be covered later in the week), but is also an important attribute for the wideouts to have.
1. BRAYLON EDWARDS - NO. 1 STARTING WIDE RECEIVER
It was not a very pleasant season for Braylon Edwards last year, and it became tiresome in the offseason to hear he would be traded to the New York Giants, without anything actually happening. There was a one group of fans who thought Edwards' days in Cleveland were over. There was another group of fans who thought it would be ridiculous to toss Edwards away after one bad season. I was in that second group, so I'm satisfied. With Kellen Winslow traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we still needed a receiver on our roster who could create double teams and mismatches down the field.
Worst Attribute: Dropping Passes - While he has never been a sure-handed player, last years struggles were completely unprecedented for Edwards. In 2007, he has nearly 1,300 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns. If the ball was thrown deep and he was in the vicinity, more times than not he would come down with it. Last year, except for two games, Edwards was practically invisible in terms of production. He wasn't quiet like Stallworth though; he had a huge impact on every game. Like in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, when he was wide open on a deep route but simply dropped the ball. In Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens, he dropped another deep pass that could've been a walk-in touchdown.
It wasn't just the big plays Edwards disappointed on though; he was dropping the ball on short-to-mid-range passes on a consistent basis as well. This was beyond Quincy Morgan and Dennis Northcutt dropping, and I'm sure it is what turned off many Browns fans (well, that, and also his arrogant demeanor at times despite his struggles). There's a difference between not making the catches that should be made and not making the catches that are difficult to make. If Edwards started struggling on jump balls where he is double covered, you can pawn it off to bad luck. You can't do the same when it's back yard pitch and catch drops.
Best Attribute: Field Recognition - This one goes back more so to the 2007 season, but it should be something that you just don't lose. Unfortunately, it does go hand in hand with having an accurate quarterback and being able to catch the ball. Against most cornerbacks, Edwards can get solid positioning in the end zone and snag fade passes out of the air right by the sidelines, making it impossible for opposing players to defend. I'm confident that Edwards is one of the best in the league at doing this, even if the plays aren't in the end zone. If he improve upon his ability to catch the ball again, Edwards' field recognition will make Brady Quinn's job a lot easier.
Various Concerns / Comments - This could be Edwards' last year with the team. He was a demon in training camp last year, looking every bit like the Pro Bowler he was the season before. After Stallworth stepped on his foot though, Edwards wasn't the same the rest of the year. Will Edwards' mentality get back on track? This year, we'll find out who the real Braylon Edwards is as a wide receiver.
Job Security: A+
Quality Potential: A+
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. BRIAN ROBISKIE - NO. 2 STARTING WIDE RECEIVER
Robiskie is the early favorite to start opposite Edwards. I'm happy that one our rookies will probably be starting, because for the past several years, our lower-level rookie receivers were held back by not being given the opportunity to play with the No. 1 team.
While he might lack ideal speed, Robiskie was labeled as a polished receiver coming out of college who was ready to make an immediate contribution. He drew praise from the coaches and local writers for his efforts in minicamp and the offseason training activities. With many Browns fans also being Buckeye fans, it won't be difficult for many of you to project just what type of contributions Robiskie will make to the team.
After he was drafted, I featured a piece on Brian Robiskie, where many fans also gave their thoughts on the selection. I encourage everyone to check that out, especially if you didn't see it the first time. After some initial dissapointment with the pick, 85% of you voted your approval in the Browns taking Robiskie at No. 36 overall.
Job Security: B
Player Potential: TBD
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. MIKE FURRY - SLOT WIDE RECEIVER
The slot receiver position should be a highly contested position, with veterans Mike Furrey and David Patten trying to make more noise than rookie Mohamad Massaquoi does.
Furrey has had an interesting career, thanks to the oddities of coach Mike Martz. Furrey began as a receiver with the St. Louis Rams, before being converted to safety in 2005 and starting 11 games at the position. The very next season, when he and Martz both went to the Detroit Lions, Furrey became a starting receiver and had over 1,098 yards receiving. Although he started, much of his production came in positions which would be ideal for a slot receiver. Furrey had a concussion last year and was placed on the injured reserve, much to Furrey's dismay, as he felt he was perfectly fine to return to action.
Furrey is a possession receiver -- during that 2006 season, his longest reception went for 31 yards. For more on Furrey along with some of our readers' initial reactions to the signing, check out this post from May 2009.
Job Security: C
Player Potential: B-
Final Roster Odds: 90%
4. MOHAMED MASSAQUOI - COMPETING FOR SLOT WIDE RECEIVER
Before long, I think the nickname "MoMass" is going to become popular for Massaquoi, to avoid the confusion of spelling his name correctly (although it's not really that difficult after getting used to it).
When I did a write-up following the draft on Massaquoi, a few fans from our Georgia affiliate responded with something that really stood out for me:
"As far as his strengths, MoMass is a tenacious blocker, a superb route-runner, and has above-average downfield speed."
If you search the Internet for scouting reports of "Massaquoi" and "blocking", the two seem to go hand in hand. Edwards was a suitable blocker for the Browns last year, but not many other receivers were. Syndric Steptoe? Not in a million years.
In college, he was inconsistent catching the ball, which makes it difficult for me to believe he will win a competition against a veteran like Furrey. I'm considering him more of a project than Robiskie is, although it would not be a shock if he performed well enough in training camp to win the job over Furrey. It might be more realistic to see Furrey and Massaquoi share reps at the slot position this season, depending on the situation we're facing in the game.
Player Potential: TBD
Final Roster Odds: 100%
5. DAVID PATTEN - BACKUP VETERAN WIDE RECEIVER
It's been nearly a decade (9 years to be exact) since David Patten has been a member of the Cleveland Browns.
That's right -- "In the year 2000...in the year 2000..." Patten played in 14 games with the Browns, recording 38 catches for 546 yards and a touchdown. If Patten was the Browns' slot receiver this year, I don't think he would be able to match that production from nine years ago; I think Furrey and Massaquoi have more potential.
Patten is a respectable veteran and a three time Super Bowl champion. In the team workouts prior to training camp, patten has been acting as a vocal leader/encourager, giving props to the younger players. That's encouraging, and while Patten is past his prime, it's not like he would be in a Willie McGinest situation where he is being asked to start. Patten will probably see some training camp reps at the No. 2 receiver position because he is a veteran, but if he makes the roster, I can't see him being more than a No. 5 receiver. That will be difficult though, because if you count Joshua Cribbs as a receiver, we really don't need anybody else after Edwards, Robiskie, Furrey, and Massaquoi.
Player Potential: C-
Final Roster Odds: 50%
Final Roster Odds: 100%
*6. JOSHUA CRIBBS - CAN WE CALL HIM A WIDE RECEIVER?
Any time I don't include Joshua Cribbs on a list as a wide receiver candidate, a few people always complain with comments such as "ummm...aren't you forgetting about Cribbs?" From now on, I should probably counter with "how many times have we heard that" versus "how many opportunities/catches has he actually had"?
2005: 1 catch, 7 yards
2006: 10 catches, 91 yards
2007: 3 catches, 37 yards
2008: 2 catches, 18 yards
I'd really like to believe that Cribbs can play a nice specialty role as a receiver, but at least during the Crennel era, we didn't see it. As for whether that'll change during the Mangini era, we simply don't know yet. With Cribbs, I'm not expecting him to compete for a job at receiver. Rather, his versatility should be used at random during a game, including some plays at receiver. Cribbs doesn't fit in on a depth chart; he gets a nice little asterisk next to his name instead.
Player Potential: NA
Final Roster Odds: 100%, if not traded
WR Position Quality (Starters / Competing Players): B
Wide receiver Donte Stallworth is not included on this list, and he will not be included in Part 2 either, as he is facing an indefinite suspension. Our depth is better now than it was at the start of last season, with the added bonus that we have two rookies the team has invested quite a bit into. While Edwards and Robiskie seem to be a sure bet at No. 1 and No. 2, the slot position is wide open. There's even an outside chance that a Syndric Steptoe or Paul Hubbard could win that role, because you never know how things will turn out from year to year.
We have several days to discuss the wide receiver position, and there are five players left to cover. I haven't decided whether Part 2 will be up on Tuesday or Wednesday; I will try to have an update on that on Monday. In Part 2, we will take a look at Devale Ellis, Paul Hubbard, Lance Leggett, Jordan Norwood, and Syndric Steptoe. Four of those receivers will be fighting for spots on the practice squad. Steptoe, who is not eligible for the practice squad, will have a very difficult time making the roster this year.