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2011 Position Review: Wide Receiver

Posted Jan 14, 2012

The Browns receivers showed progress as they got more experience in the West Coast offense.

Overview:

While the Browns running backs suffered from injuries throughout training camp and during the regular season, the wide receivers went through their growing pains as they learned the routes required to run the West Coast offense.

Of the six receivers on the Browns’ roster for the final game of the 2011 regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the median age was 24.8 years old with 2.33 years of NFL service. The Browns lost one of their more “veteran” receivers when they waived third-year pro, Brian Robiskie midway through the year.

Joshua Cribbs was the Browns’ oldest wide receiver at 28 years old with seven NFL seasons under his belt. However, Cribbs was not a wide receiver when he entered the NFL in 2005. He was a quarterback at Kent State University and after signing a contract as an undrafted free agent, he earned his way onto the team as kick returner/special teams standout. Only in the last three years has Cribbs taken a bigger role on offense.

Browns rookie Greg Little was one of the youngest players on the team at 22 years old. Little did not have as much experience at wide receiver as other Browns, as he was a running back when he went to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Little was converted to wide receiver and was productive for the Tar Heels, but he missed the 2010 season due to an NCAA-mandated suspension.

Outstanding Performer:

Greg Little.

Little caught 61 passes for 709 yards and two touchdowns this year. He finished second to Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (65 receptions) and fifth in yards behind Green (1,057), Atlanta’s Julio Jones (959), Baltimore’s Torrey Smith (841) and Doug Baldwin of Seattle (788).

Little’s receptions were the second-most and his yardage total was the fourth-best ever by a Browns rookie. Kevin Johnson set the team record with 66 catches in the 1999 season. Little had the first 100-yard game and the longest catch of his career -- a 76-yard touchdown -- in the Browns’ 20-17 overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 18.

Key Number:

Four.

Four Browns receivers caught touchdown passes during the 2011 regular season, which was up from the three pass-catchers on the receiving end of Browns touchdowns in 2010. Little, Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Jordan Norwood combined for nine touchdowns, which was three better than Massaquoi, Cribbs and Robiskie totaled last season.

What To Watch For:

The development of the wide receivers as the Browns enter their second season under the direction of coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense.

Cribbs proved to be more than just a threat on special teams as he surpassed some of his career bests in 2011. He caught 41 passes for 518 yards and tied for the team lead with four touchdowns. Cribbs’ best total for receptions was 23 in 2010 and he had gained 580 yards on 59 receptions combined in his six previous NFL seasons.

Massaquoi caught 31 passes for 384 yards and two touchdowns in 2011, including the game-winning score in the waning seconds of the Browns’ 17-16 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 25.

Norwood did not have an NFL reception heading into the 2011 season, but he finished the year with 23 catches for 268 yards and one touchdown. In the Browns’ loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 27, Norwood caught two passes on the opening drive, first a 36-yarder along the Bengals’ sideline, and then, a 24-yard touchdown.

After suffering a broken finger in training camp which delayed his progression in his second professional season, Carlton Mitchell came on strong at the end of the year. He finished with three receptions for 31 yards, including a 19-yard pass that went for a first down on the Browns’ final drive in a 13-9 loss to the Steelers on Jan. 1.

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