Last season, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins was asked to do it all: play outside receiver, in the slot, mentor young players and serve as a locker room voice of leadership.
Hawkins loves having a ton on his plate responsibility-wise and clearly thrived in his new situation with the Browns. His 63 receptions and 824 yards were both career highs. Taylor Gabriel credits part of his rapid development to Hawkins' tutelage.
But the arrival of Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline as veteran reinforcements has created a new battle-tested atmosphere to Cleveland's wide receivers classroom.
"There's not really any what-if," Hawkins said. "Hartline's been in the league a long time. Dwayne Bowe has done it in this league a long time. These guys are coming out here and practicing and they're pros. You couldn't have made two better additions to this team."
"Bowe, Hawkins and Hartline – they talk football like coaches," wide receivers coach Joker Phillips said.
While Cleveland installs a wide range of plays during OTAs, exact roles for each wide receiver have yet to be etched in stone. Phillips was being honest when he said he's still not exactly sure who will lead the Browns in receiving.
So the situation has presented an interesting dilemma that the Browns have embraced with aggressive, competitive practices. Phillips, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and coach Mike Pettine are evaluating every play from OTAs to determine the wide receiver rotation, Hawkins said.
"There's pressure on all of us, which is a good thing," Hawkins said. "We still have a lot to prove. That's a good situation to be in. Once the season rolls around, we'll have to keep this going."
In addition to Hawkins, Bowe, Hartline and Gabriel, the Browns have eight additional receivers competing for spots: Vince Mayle, Travis Benjamin, Marlon Moore, Rodney Smith, Josh Lenz, Kevin Cone, Paul Browning and Darius Jennings.
"The football needs to be spread around," Phillips said. "Our groups of guys, they're all smart, they all listen, they all compete. That's what you want with the group."