Part 2 of our training camp preview for the Cleveland Browns wide receivers beings today, featuring some of the receivers who will be competing for the No. 4 or No. 5 WR spots (depending on what happens with WR Josh Gordon).
5. TRAVIS BENJAMIN - COMPETING FOR A DEPTH WR SPOT
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 175
Age: 24 | Experience: 3 years
Note: Trying to recover from torn ACL...might be placed on PUP to start camp.
Travis Benjamin has a new jersey number this year, as he will wear No. 11 instead of No. 80 (which is now owned by Charles Johnson). When it comes to injuries, the biggest question mark on the Browns is Benjamin.
Benjamin tore his ACL on October 27, 2013 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Will he be recovered enough to the point where he is the same, electrifying return man? At the beginning of June, head coach Mike Pettine said that the only player who might not be ready for the start of training camp was Benjamin, and if that was the case, they would put him on the physically unable to perform list.
If Benjamin is healthy enough to contribute, I imagine his roster spot is safe because of how awesome he was on punt returners in 2013. Pettine would know -- he saw Benjamin return punts of 57 yards and 79 yards against Buffalo, with the latter one going for a touchdown.
For the purposes of this preview, though, the question is whether Benjamin will see action at receiver. In that regard, the odds aren't in his favor. In two seasons, Benjamin has only notched 23 catches for 403 yards and 2 touchdowns. He's had some good preseason showings at receiver, but hasn't received many gameday opportunities. Coming off of a torn ACL, he might not get the type of work he needs in training camp to show the coaching staff he's ready for a more significant role on offense.
Final Roster Odds: 100% (if healthy enough)
6. ANTHONY ARMSTRONG - COMPETING FOR A DEPTH WR SPOT
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 185
Age: 31 | Experience: 4 years
College: West Texas A&M
Note: Experience in Shanny's offense...was labeled as an OTA/minicamp star.
The early favorite to quickly rise up the depth chart in Cleveland is Anthony Armstrong, who played several seasons in Kyle Shanahan's offense with the Washington Redskins.
An undrafted free agent in 2008, Armstrong had one big season in 2010, where he played in 15 games (13 starts) and notched 44 catches for 871 yards and 3 touchdowns. Other than that, he's been relatively invisible...until signing with the Browns after the draft and being the team's standout receiver on offense.
With Miles Austin and Nate Burleson sidelined at the time, Armstrong had more reps to prove himself. He outlasted the other veteran receiver who was signed at the same time he was, Earl Bennett. Kevin Jones of Browns.com says, "Armstrong might be hailed as one of the Browns’ best additions this offseason. His route running is what opened eyes during OTAs and minicamp. Armstrong was always open." Armstrong has very much been known as a deep threat receiver in his career, and with a similar build as Benjamin, he could be the player who takes reps away from him this season.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
7. CHARLES JOHNSON - COMPETING FOR A DEPTH WR SPOT
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 215
Age: 25 | Experience: 2 years
College: Grand Valley State
Note: Very over-hyped received... also recovering from a torn ACL.
If you want the perfect -- and I mean perfect -- snapshot of why some people are excited about Charles Johnson, then you need to read this FanPost that was posted about him in early June.
Long-story short? Some people feel that Johnson has the physical tools and speed to be a Josh Gordon clone. The hesitation to that, of course, is that he hasn't really had the chance to prove himself. He faced obstacles in college, and then the Green Bay Packers "discovered" him in 2013, making him a seventh-round draft pick. Because of how loaded the Packers are at receiver, Johnson could only make the team's practice squad.
The Browns signed Johnson off the Packers' practice squad mid-way through last season, only to receive surprising news -- Johnson had a torn ACL that he didn't even know about! Johnson was placed on injured reserve, but Cleveland maintained the rights to him. Now, people are excited to see if there's any chance this guy can come from obscurity and look like a No. 1 receiver or something. Yes, it's a pipe dream, but it's still something worth watching. The other day, Brian Hoyer noted that in the weeks leading up to training camp, he's been throwing with Johnson and Andrew Hawkins.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
Practice Squad Odds: 80% (if he doesn't make the final roster)
8. CONNER VERNON - COMPETING FOR A DEPTH WR SPOT
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 200
Age: 23 | Experience: 1 year
Note: Good at grabbing the ball in the air...not the fastest receiver out there.
An undrafted free agent in 2013, Conner Vernon signed with the Oakland Raiders, but did not make their final roster. It wasn't until Week 17 of last season that the Browns picked up Vernon, adding him to their practice squad.
Vernon has the reputation of being a receiver who is good at getting position on defenders to go up and make a play on a ball. He lacks speed with a 40-time of 4.68, so he generally stays close to the line of scrimmage.
In a funny article prior to last year's draft, Vernon said that it really didn't make sense, other than him being white, that people were comparing him to Wes Welker and Eric Decker. I guess I should avoid calling him this year's Josh Cooper, eh? Vernon is 23 years old, but once you start getting to this point, you all of these youthful receivers are a crapshoot to make the roster. That's what training camp is for.
Final Roster Odds: <1%
Practice Squad Odds: 10% (if he doesn't make the final roster)
On Tuesday, we'll wrap up the receiver position with Part 3, covering the team's five undrafted free agents. Our poll today asks which of the players from today's preview you think will make the biggest contribution as a receiver in 2014.