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Browns offseason position analysis: Wide receivers

The Browns had a breakout player and far too many injuries at today's position group.

After Friday's installment on the running backs, we're looking at the wide receivers.

The Raw Data

Travis Benjamin - 16 games, 68 receptions, 966 yards, 5 TDs

Brian Hartline - 12 games, 46 receptions, 523 yards, 2 TDs

Andrew Hawkins - 8 games, 27 receptions, 276 yards

Taylor Gabriel - 13 games, 28 receptions, 241 yards

Darius Jennings - 4 games, 14 receptions, 117 yards

Marlon Moore - 14 games, 7 receptions, 81 yards, TD

Dwayne Bowe - 7 games, 5 receptions, 53 yards

Terrelle Pryor - 3 games, 1 reception, 42 yards

Others on the roster

Rannell Hall

Josh Gordon (reserve/suspended by commissioner)

The Rankings

WR TDs - 8 - Same as 2014

WR yards - 2,299 - down from 2,630 in 2014, accounted for just 55 percent of all receiving yards

Contract talk

(According to, the following players contracts will expire at the start of the new league year in March)




Who's in charge now?

Senior offensive assistant/wide receivers - Al Saunders (47 years experience, 34 in NFL)

Quote to note

"That's very tough knowing that the wear and tear and amount of plays you want to be out there as a group. We know that we can rotate and get certain guys on plays, but with those guys going down, it just puts more toughness on us, but we as a receiver group, we're willing to go in there and compete still without those guys." - Benjamin

High Point

Cleveland's wide receiver group played a big part in Josh McCown's record-setting passing performance Week 5 at Baltimore. Though tight end Gary Barnidge led the way with 139 yards, the Browns wide receivers delivered one of their most balanced efforts of the year, as Benjamin (83), Gabriel (75) and Hawkins (49) each provided consistent support and made a number of big catches in a game where Cleveland needed every single one of them. This was easily the best collective effort from Gabriel and Hawkins, both of whom were sidelined throughout the season with injuries.

Low Point

The injuries and inconsistent play of some of the wide receivers piled up and culminated Week 13 against the Bengals, as Cleveland finished the game with Jennings, running back Duke Johnson and tight end E.J. Bibbs lined up at the wide receiver positions. The game served as a solid debut for Jennings, who had five catches for 35 yards, but it was tough sledding for quarterback Austin Davis after Benjamin and Hartline went out with injuries. They'd both return the following week, but Hartline would be lost once more with a clavicle injury that ended his season.

Surprise, Surprise

Hartline had a slow start to 2015 and a premature end to it, but the middle was exactly what the Browns envisioned. In his final five games of the year, which spanned from Week 9 to Week 14, Hartline caught 34 passes for 363 yards and two scores. He emerged as a reliable target inside the red zone, where he often caught passes on the cusp of the goal line to set up scores, and on third downs. He showed equally strong chemistry with Johnny Manziel and McCown, a trademark of a true professional.

Outlook for 2016

Two uncertainties are the current headlines surrounding this position group as the Browns look ahead to 2016. The first is Benjamin, who, after a breakout fourth season, is a free agent in less than a month. The second is Gordon, the Pro Bowl receiver who missed all of 2015 because of a league suspension. Whether one, both or none are back for 2016 will have a major impact on the makeup of Cleveland's passing attack. Before his second injury, Hartline showed no signs of slowing down and could continue to be a valuable member of this group. Hawkins and Gabriel will both be looking to bounce back from seasons that fell short of their personal expectations.

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