Skip to main content


Browns offseason analysis: Putting the WRs under the microscope


Day 3, and we're still focused on the offense.

Now that we've covered the quarterbacks and running backs, it's time to examine the five wide receivers who caught passes for the Browns in 2014.

Cleveland Browns Daily (1-3 p.m.) will be tackling this topic, too.

The Raw Data

Andrew Hawkins - 63 receptions, 824 yards, 2 TDs; 3 rushes, 15 yards

Miles Austin - 47 receptions, 568 yards, 2 TDs

Taylor Gabriel - 36 receptions, 621 yards, TD; 4 rushes, 10 yards

Josh Gordon - 24 receptions, 303 yards

Travis Benjamin - 18 receptions, 314 yards, 3 TDs; 3 rushes, 11 yards

The Rankings

Yards by wide receivers - 2,630 - 11th

Touchdowns by wide receivers - 8 - T-30th

The High Point

For one game, the Browns had exactly what they envisioned from this position group during the early part of the offseason. With Gordon back from his 10-game suspension and everyone else healthy, the Browns wide receivers accounted for all but 32 of the 322 passing yards Brian Hoyer had against the Atlanta Falcons. Gordon raked in the most with eight catches for 120 yards, but it was the supporting cast of Hawkins (5 rec., 93 yards) and Austin (6 rec., 64 yards) that provided Hoyer with a slew of reliable options. It lasted for just one more game, as Austin went down with a season-ending injury the next week at Buffalo.

The Low Point

The first full game without Austin was a struggle from start to finish. Gordon was used sparingly on third down and caught only two passes for 15 yards. Hawkins was the group's leader with four catches for 38 yards while Gabriel and Benjamin were able to haul in one pass apiece. This wasn't Hoyer's best showing of the season, of course, but as coaches lamented throughout the final of the year, he needed a lot more help around him.

Best catch

You've been seeing a lot of this catch on our website of late, but there's no way around it. This game-winning touchdown catch by Benjamin was not only the best, but one of the most important of the season. The 6-yard touchdown grab with 1:09 to play at Tennessee capped a historic 25-point comeback and served as the final dose of redemption for Benjamin, who caught two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after muffing a punt earlier in the second half.

Surprise, Surprise

Few knew what to expect when the Browns signed Austin to a one-year deal. The veteran caught just 24 passes for 244 yards in his final season with the Cowboys, a year that was derailed by injuries. Austin didn't light it up like he did during the early part of his career, but he was the steadying force in a wide receiver room that was written off by those outside the franchise before the season even started. Austin was one of Hoyer's top options on third downs and an invaluable leader. His value was displayed most when he wasn't there, as the Browns weren't quite able to replace him during the final month of the season.

Quote to Note

"Thought they played well. Again, I'm a believer that this whole notion that you've got to have this one guy that's the silver bullet is a myth. I think it's like trying to catch werewolves and vampires. They just don't exist. I'm a big believer in it's a team sport, and when we combine the requisite skill sets necessary to let guys have success, we have that success. We saw that earlier this year that we were missing certain key components that people thought were high-value targets and assets for us, but we played team football. As a result of that, we were able to have success." -- General Manager Ray Farmer, Dec. 30

Outlook for 2015

Here's what we know: Hawkins, Gabriel and Benjamin should be back. Austin is an unrestricted free agent who has expressed a desire to re-up with the franchise for next season at the least. The status of Gordon, who was suspended for the season finale because of a violation of team rules, will be among the many situations evaluated in the coming months, as Farmer said he would only move on from the Pro Bowl receiver if he demonstrated he was "un-savable" or the team determined "we can't help them anymore or they don't want help." If the Browns want to add an experienced wide receiver via free agency, there are plenty available. Among the more intriguing options: Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, Demaryius Thomas, Cecil Shorts and Torrey Smith. The Browns also have 10 draft picks with two coming in the first round, but the franchise hasn't drafted a wide receiver since Benjamin in 2012. Farmer said he wanted to upgrade the Browns roster with players who "affect every single play of the game" and wants to see competition thrive at every position.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content