The Browns’ summer break is still in full swing, but we’re back in the office and applying extra precautionary layers of sunscreen as we prepare for 2019 training camp. It’s going to be a zoo in Berea, and we’re ready to chronicle absolutely everything that happens.
As part of that preparation, we’re putting each position group under our finest microscope over the next two weeks. This roster is full of star power, sure, but it’s going to take all 53 -- and more -- for the Browns to accomplish their goals.
We’re wrapping up this week with a look at the wide receivers, a group that has been absolutely transformed over the past two seasons.
THE WIDE RECEIVERS
Odell Beckham Jr.
What we know: Perhaps the biggest NFL story of the offseason involved this group thanks to Cleveland’s blockbuster acquisition of Beckham, an All-Pro mega talent who is entering the prime of his career. He provides a turbo-charged injection of talent to a room that was already ascending thanks to last year’s acquisition of Landry, the strong rookie season from Callaway and a breakout campaign of sorts from Higgins. As it stands, the Browns have the most talent and depth at wide receiver they’ve had since … ever? It’s probably too early to go that far, but Cleveland finds itself in the exact opposite position as it did just a few seasons ago, when it was relying on late-round rookies and waiver claims to play as starters. It comes at the perfect time for a Browns offense hoping to be among the NFL’s best under the watch of head coach Freddie Kitchens, quarterback Baker Mayfield, a loaded stable of running backs and a tight end room full of capable pass-catchers.
What we don’t know: How will this all fit together and work? What will it actually look like to have a wide receiver who has caught 390 passes for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns over the past five seasons on one side of the field and another who has 481 catches for 5,014 yards and 26 touchdowns over that same stretch? And how will it look when you mix in arguably one of the most talented young receivers in the NFL and a reliable pass-catcher who has unquestioned chemistry with the quarterback? That’s what we’ve yet to see but are anxiously anticipating when training camp begins. Beckham looked the part during minicamp, but it was just his second, third and fourth sessions on the field with Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense. Landry did not participate in any on-field drills while nursing an undisclosed injury but is expected to be full-go when training camp begins. Callaway and Higgins were in and out, too. We’ll get the full picture throughout late July and August before the real fun begins in September.
Check out photos of Browns wide receivers
X-Factor: When the Browns drafted Callaway, it was understood they received a first-round level talent in the fourth round because of Callaway’s off-the-field transgressions at Florida. Callaway had an up and down 2018 season, but his talent was evident. A lot was thrown on Callaway’s plate, especially when you consider he hadn’t played football in more than a year before arriving in Cleveland. He was, perhaps, at his best when the Browns had various other elements clicking on offense. That should be the case on a weekly basis in 2019, providing an opportunity for Callaway to thrive and exploit some potential mismatches while opposing defenses try to stop Beckham, Landry and other weapons in the Cleveland offense. “We have been very pleasantly and very happy with how he came back from the offseason ready to go,” Mayfield said. “Just how quick he is and you can tell he has been working on his craft. That is very exciting to see that. You bring in a guy like Odell and you re-sign some guys, and he is going to try and compete with them. That is the most important part. Competition brings out the best in them and Callaway is doing that.”
The biggest number: 15 - Browns wide receivers hauled in 15 touchdown passes in 2018 -- a modest total that ranks somewhere in the middle of the league. It’s that much more impressive when you consider the position accounted for just five in 2017. For what it’s worth, Beckham has averaged .75 touchdowns per game since he entered the NFL in 2014.
Says it all: “Usually, some receivers they go to the left side or they go to the right side. When you have somebody that can move all the way around, it helps the offense out more. You can’t really gameplan for it. You do not know where exactly I am going to be. It really just makes it a lot harder for the other team to game plan.” -- Beckham
How many were kept on last year’s initial 53-man roster?: 6