Any help the Cleveland Browns can get is more than welcome, and two opposing players provided some today.
Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and Chargers tight end Antonio Gates received four-game suspensions from the NFL for drug use. The Browns will play the Jets on the road in week one and the Chargers at First Energy Stadium in week four.
[You can read the full story on Richardson's suspension here (courtesy of our friends at Gang Green Nation), and read the full story on Gates' suspension here (courtesy of our colleagues at Bolts from the Blue)]
Avoiding these two key players is sure to help the Browns, at least on paper. Richardson wreaked havoc in his first two seasons in New York, notching Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 and receiving a Pro Bowl bid in 2014. Richardson is 1-0 versus the Browns, with three tackles in that game. Gates is an aging star and still quite capable of tearing apart a defense, as he hauled in 12 touchdowns last season. In five games against the Browns, Gates is 4-1 with 13 catches for 275 yards and one touchdown.
At the same time, the replacements for Richardson and Gates are still formidable. Richardson's backup is first round draft pick Leonard Williams, while Ladarius Green will hold down the fort for Gates.
How much the Browns will benefit from the absences of Richardson and Gates is unclear. But it will certainly help to ease the Browns' tough schedule in some way.