In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five" we take a look at what the introduction of Jimmy Haslam as the new owner means for Tom Heckert, if the change in ownership played any role in the selection of WR Josh Gordon, and how the rest of the team's wide receiver situation is looking right now.
Many people were very satisfied after listening to Jimmy Haslam's news conference this past Friday. I think the most important thing people wanted to take away from the conference (besides the absurd thought that the team was at risk of being moved again) was, "is this guy going to have a presence, or is he going to sit in the background like Randy Lerner?" There isn't necessarily a right or wrong way of doing things, but with how things have gone with Lerner, I think the fans and the media alike were more than ready for a change. At the very least, I think Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert have to remain with the team through the end of the season. Whether or not the Browns have a good season, you could then make a case that he has done enough to pass on the torch to [hopefully] what has become a much more stable organization. Heckert's case is a bit more interesting.
Haslam commented on the importance of making sure a team's first-round picks end up being top-notch players. When speaking about the current regime, Haslam said, "it looks to me that over the last two years that they’ve done a really nice job." Those are some bonus points for Heckert, but let's consider the one major fault this team had after April's draft: they didn't address the wide receiver position. The first time that Haslam met Lerner was on July 2nd. I would venture to guess that Lerner informed Holmgren of his intentions to sell the team shortly after that date, and that Holmgren would have passed that information along to Heckert.
Just 10 days later, on July 12th, something called the "Supplemental Draft" was scheduled to take place. Lo and behold, there happened to be a heavily-hyped prospect at the wide receiver position, Baylor's Josh Gordon, who would be available to all 32 teams. I'm not saying that Heckert pressed the panic button and drafted Gordon solely in an attempt to save his job in 2013. However, a tiny part of me wonders if news of an impending sale made it a higher priority to go into "win now" mode, because as good of a draft as Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden might have been, if the receivers looked like crap for another year on Heckert's watch, who knows what the repercussions might have been.
When the Browns drafted Weeden, I thought the front office expressed a lot of confidence in the receivers the team had from a year ago. That is why I thought Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Joshua Cribbs, and Jordan Norwood would be the heavily targeted by Weeden at the beginning of training camp. Little and Massaquoi have been the top two receivers, but Cribbs and Norwood have basically fallen out of the receiver rotation. Josh Gordon is out on the field when three-receiver sets are run, putting him in a similar position that Little was in at the beginning of the 2011 season. The next receiver in line has been fourth-round pick Travis Benjamin. With the exception of Massaquoi, it has been made clear that the coaching staff is "out with the old, in with the new," which is a sharp contrast to what was conveyed to fans prior to the news of an ownership change and the selection of Gordon.
The Browns will keep six wide receivers. Five of them are locked in: Little, Massaquoi, Gordon, Benjamin, and Cribbs. I originally thought Norwood would be retained as a slot receiver, but it looks like Little will fulfill that role, and Benjamin is favored over Norwood as the waterbug. Josh Cooper is making the play to be the team's sixth receiver, but I'm not convinced that he'll see a lot of reps -- he could be more bound for the practice squad. Internally, I'm buying into my own hype that the final receiving position could oddly come down to Carlton Mitchell and Rod Windsor.
Mitchell spent all of last season on the 53-man roster but never got the opportunity to really play. We haven't where a healthy Mitchell would line up in this year's camp. We were already surprised by the fact that Norwood wasn't getting opportunities with the first-team offense. For all we know, the only reason Benjamin is seeing as many reps as he is could be because Mitchell is out. We'll see how things change if/when the third-year receiver returns from a leg injury. Windsor seems to be having a strong camp for the second year in a row. While he isn't exactly running with the first-team offense, there are still several weeks of camp to go. We'll see how things unfold between Norwood, Cooper, Mitchell, and Windsor.