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Most Important Questions

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Most Important Questions: No. 6 - Who will emerge as the Browns' No. 3 wide receiver, and what will their role look like?

Training camp can't get here soon enough. By then, we'll have plenty of answers to all of the loose ends surrounding the 2020 Browns.

For now, we simply have some questions.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be discussing those queries and analyzing the variables that accompany them. We've narrowed our list to 10, but there are certainly many more that will need to be answered by the time Cleveland opens the season against the Ravens in Baltimore.

We're continuing today with one of the biggest questions surrounding the Browns' wide receivers.

The question: Who will emerge as the Browns' No. 3 wide receiver, and what will their role look like?

The Browns didn't necessarily have a regular, third receiver in 2019. By the end of the season, the player who essentially served in that role was RB Kareem Hunt, who hauled in 37 passes over the final eight games. The Browns' most productive wide receiver behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry was Damion Ratley, who had 12 catches for 200 yards.

When the topic of the third receiver was broached with new wide receivers coach/pass game coordinator Chad O'Shea during the spring, there was some reluctance to anoint a specific player as "the third receiver."

"Certainly, the job of a receiver we always say is to get open and to catch the ball, and we are going to try to do that," O'Shea said. "When we are asked to put two of our guys on the field, we are going to do it, and when they call for three of us, we are going to go out there and do it. I think that those discussions as a coaching staff are ongoing, and we will continue to have those in the future.

"I do not think it is set in stone right now, and our players understand, too, that it is a situation that is constantly evolving and we are learning about our players and what they do best. Once we really get a feel for that, we get on the field and I think that it will narrow it down at that point."

So yes, there will be plenty of times when three wide receivers are on the field. It just might not be the same person on each occasion. Sometimes, like we saw during the majority of the second half of 2019, it could very well be a running back or tight end occupying the "third receiver" role.

Still, the Browns are going to have a wide receivers room that goes beyond Beckham and Landry. And those players should get plenty of opportunities in training camp considering both of the Pro Bowlers are recovering from offseason surgeries.

Rashard Higgins has certainly benefited from big performances in training camp. In 2018, he quickly became Baker Mayfield’s favorite target on the second team and earned a spot on the 53-man roster. He's back with the team after re-signing in May and is determined to rebound from a disappointing 2019 campaign. He carries the most experience of anyone in the competition.

"He has certainly worked very hard, and he knows that he has an opportunity," O'Shea said. "We brought him back because we believe he can help the team, and he understands that."

Ratley was the third-most productive wide receiver on the team last year and ended it on a high note with a long touchdown in the season finale. Ratley is one of the team's fastest players and provides the Browns with a deep threat that could mesh nicely with Beckham and Landry.

Taywan Taylor, a former third-round pick who caught 37 passes for the Titans in 2018, was acquired shortly before the start of the 2019 season but never found his footing in the offense. He'll get another shot to impress and look to find a role.

A bevy of other young players, including the recently signed JoJo Natson and D.J. Montgomery — who was impressive in training camp last year before suffering an injury — will also look to stand out when they can.

And then there's sixth-round pick Donovan Peoples-Jones, who has all the traits NFL teams covet at the position and is looking to prove doubters wrong after falling farther than he anticipated in the draft. O'Shea wouldn't rule out anyone in the competition but stressed they would have to attack every opportunity they receive in order to have a chance.

"There is going to be a small window, and they are going to have to nail it," O'Shea said. "If they are not prepared, they do not do their job in these virtual settings and they do not truly embrace what we are trying to do, it is going to be near impossible for them to have the opportunity to succeed if they are not prepared and they do not know what to do."

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