Travis Benjamin can't bank on the luxury of inconspicuousness much longer.
That's just fine with the speedy Browns wide receiver and the rest of Cleveland's offense, which is preparing to benefit from the extra attention he's bound to receive from opposing defenses as soon as Sunday against the Raiders.
So just how does Benjamin's explosive start to the season, a two-game stint that has seen him catch three touchdown passes of longer than 50 yards, change a defense's approach? Benjamin offered one of the simpler explanations.
"By backing them up," Benjamin said.
That's certainly a big part of it, as Benjamin, after blitzing the defenses of New York and Tennessee for a combined six catches, 204 yards and three touchdowns, could now draw the attention of opposing safeties, who would shade his direction in hopes of minimizing his big-play potential. The side effects for such a maneuver are multiple and could positively impact other Browns receivers on underneath routes or, in general, the running game, which would benefit from less defenders crammed in the box.
One thing's for certain, though: The Browns aren't going to stop throwing to Benjamin until defenses can prove they can stop him.
"We're going to make teams defend him. We're not going to make that assumption," Pettine said. "A lot of teams, they have their system and they play it so we're not going to purposefully go away from Travis thinking, 'OK, teams know about him now. They're aware.' We'll see how they choose to defend him and react to it."
We're 9-3 in our last 12 games against the Raiders. Here's a photographic look at those games.
Even when opponents scheme to take away Benjamin's deep-ball prowess, plays like the one that sealed last week's win over Tennessee can happen.
The Browns had six offensive linemen on the field after rookie Cameron Erving checked into the game as an eligible receiver. It wasn't enough to cover up a protection breakdown that allowed Titans Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo to run toward quarterback Duke Johnson Jr. untouched. Manziel was originally supposed to slide to his right and identify one of three options. Instead, he was flushed to his left and forced to improvise. Benjamin came all the way from across the field, streaked past the defenders and caught Manziel's deep pass for his second long touchdown.
"Johnny found him in the scramble drill," offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. "It was a great play by both of those guys."
The hope now is for small, medium and big plays to abound with Cleveland's other wide receivers, who have combined for 11 catches and 104 yards in the first two games.
Asked if it was a problem that Benjamin was getting significantly more targets than the other wide receivers, Pettine said, "our preference is to throw to the open guy." The other receivers' time will come -- soon, at that -- and they'll have to be ready.
"I think Flip does a good job of mixing up the personnel groupings and having the routes run to each receiver's strengths," Pettine said. "It is doubtful that Travis is going to be the go to guy the whole time. Teams will start to scheme to defend him."