It's time for Week 3 of our 2010 Cleveland Browns Training Camp Preview, and this week's theme is "See Ball, Catch Ball...and Block." The positions that will be covered this week are wide receiver, tight end, and fullback.
I didn't do the offensive line preview that was scheduled for late last week for a few reasons; among them were the fourth of July weekend, and the ridiculously humid temperatures in the room where my desktop computer is at that made it impossible to concentrate. That's why we have an overflow week scheduled from July 25 to July 30, so that's when you expect the OL preview.
The Browns' group of receivers were among the worst in the league last season, even when Braylon Edwards was still on the roster. The group was young, inexperienced, and perhaps most importantly, didn't have an accurate quarterback delivering the football. Will things be any different this year? It's hard to say, considering the team declined to pursue a veteran...
1. MOHAMED MASSAQUOI - NO. 1 WIDE RECEIVER
Despite all of the praise in mini-camp and offseason training activities for Brian Robiskie, Massaquoi has to remain the team's No. 1 receiver heading into training camp. I say that because for all of the times Robiskie didn't see the field last year, as good of a mini-camp as he may have had, I can't imagine how the staff would automatically slip him ahead of Massaquoi, who saw significant action last year.
Massaquoi really had a hot/cold year last year, but overall I suppose we can say he had an acceptable season for a second-round rookie, considering the quarterback situation.
Massaquoi finished last season with 34 catches for 624 yards as the team's leading receiver. When you take a look at his statistics, there were 10 games in which he recorded at most one reception. In the other six games, he caught 25 passes for 459 yards and 3 touchdowns. Finding a way to become a more consistent receiver will be the key for Massaquoi this year. He can be an effective deep threat, and I think the Browns will continue trying to utilize him down the field.
Besides hoping for a better quarterback this season though, Massaquoi needs to cut down on the number of drops he had last year. Stats, Inc. is generous with their drop numbers, and they had Massaquoi leading the Browns with seven. Mangini has praised him for having great hands, so we all know that Edwards made spectacular catches during practice as well. Game time is what counts.
Massaquoi's best game of the season last year came against the Bengals the first time around. Much of Massaquoi's success in that game was attributed to the fact that he was able to breakout since Cincinnati was double teaming Edwards (it was Braylon's final game with the team). This camp, we'll be looking for Massaquoi to show growth and take control of the No. 1 receiving position, rather than looking like a No. 2 receiving trying to fill someone else's shoes.
Job Security: A+
Player Quality: B-
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. BRIAN ROBISKIE - NO. 2 WIDE RECEIVER
While Massaquoi's goal is to simply embrace the No. 1 receiving position this year, Robiskie needs to seize the other starting position because despite the positive press he has received, there's always a chance that the more-experienced Chansi Stuckey could sneak in and be the team's No. 2 receiver.
If Massaquoi and Robiskie are the starting tandem, then I think they have the potential to compliment each other very well. Massaquoi is a deep threat who can make a big play down the field in a pinch. Robiskie isn't fast, but he's supposed to be technically sound -- he runs good routes and is a sure-handed receiver.
It's still a bit puzzling as to why Robiskie, who was touted in last year's draft as, "the most NFL-ready receiver," wasn't quite ready by Mangini's standards. In fact, there were times in which free agent signee Jake Allen saw the field ahead of Robiskie. 7 catches for 106 yards in a rookie season for the 36th overall pick isn't the type of playing time/production fans envisioned him getting when he was drafted. He saw the field more than his statistics indicate, especially later in the season, but the quarterback mess played a factor as the ball really never came his direction.
Hopefully all of the praise Robiskie has received from the media in the mini-camp sessions will carry over into training camp. Because Robiskie can be the possession receiver, I really hope that Jake Delhomme is able to build a lot of chemistry with him early on in camp. With the offense we're trying to run, I envision Ben Watson being a guarenteed threat on third down passing situations. We need a receiver that can move the chains in those situations too, and if Robiskie and Delhomme aren't on the same page, we're going to be sending the special teams unit onto the field more times than necessary.
Job Security: B-
Player Quality: C-
Final Roster Odds: 99%
3. CHANSI STUCKEY - SLOT RECEIVER
Unless one of our rookie receivers perform like a Pro Bowler in camp, Stuckey should have the slot receiver role locked up. When the Browns traded Edwards last year, I was pleased to acquire Stuckey in the deal. He was only entering his second year, but he was familiar with Mangini and given the amount of playing time he received, he was productive in 2007 for being a seventh-rounder (32 catches, 359 yards, 3 touchdowns).
There was one major issue with Stuckey ever since he came over to the Browns though: he never seemed to fit in completely. I guess the excuse you make in this situation is that he was at a disadvantage trying to adapt to a new team, but the issue that plagued me was the fact that a player who wasn't known for dropping passes in New York suddenly developed a habit of dropping passes in Cleveland.
Stuckey isn't the type of receiver who is going to make a great adjustment on the football down the field. Where he excels is lining up in a bunch formation, and then squirting out to the sideline. He usually catches the ball between a half-yard to a full yard shy of a first down, but he has smooth moves to evade the tackler or bounce forward from the initial contact to pick up a first down. We saw this a few times late last season with the Browns, and every time he did it the play stuck in my mind.
Job Security: B+
Player Quality: C-
Final Roster Odds: 98%
4. JOSHUA CRIBBS - UTILITY RECEIVER / RUNNING BACK / WILDCAT EXTRAORDINAIRE
I didn't list Cribbs' title as being the No. 4 receiver, but rather the utility player. Despite the incredible playmaking abilities that Cribbs possesses, he hasn't shown in the past that he can excel as a wide receiver in the traditional form. However, he can excel as a wide receiver in the nontraditional form because of all of the variables he brings:
- When he is in the game, is a trick play coming?
- Is he going to shift out of the Wildcat?
- Is he going to receive the ball right off the line with a group of offensive lineman shifting over at the same time?
- Is he actually going to run down the field...like a regular wide receiver?
The beauty with Cribbs is that in order to use him, we don't need to run a four-receiver set. To the contrary, if he is in the game as a receiver, I'd more-so expect him to be paired with Massaquoi or Robiskie, shifting into the No. 1 or No. 2 slot. It might not happen regularly, but it will happen often enough to try to catch the opposition napping.
Cribbs seems to be most effective as a receiver when he receives a short three-yard pass, because when the ball is already in his hands and he knows he's not going to take an immediate hit, it basically becomes just another kick or punt return for him. He's best at utilizing his blockers, seeing the holes, and trying to pick the right time to burst through them. I hope we do not see Cribbs running 15-yard comeback routes like we saw last year, because trying to turn him into a possession receiver really doesn't play to his strengths.
Player Quality: A+ overall, but as a receiver specifically it's still around a D
Final Roster Odds: 100%
WR Position Quality: C- (Starters/Contenders Only)
NOTE: Tomorrow I will have Part 2 of the wide receiver preview, where depth players Jake Allen, Johnathan Haggerty, Syndric Steptoe, and Carlton Mitchell will be covered.
Our crop of starting receivers doesn't sound too explosive, which puts more pressure on the shoulders of QB Jake Delhomme to produce. These receivers need an accurate quarterback who makes smart decisions to deliver them the football in order for them to mature. Delhomme might end up being more accurate than Quinn and Anderson, but the more important asset he brings to the table is the ability to be a team leader and someone who can talk to the receivers from experience.