Friday, May 18, 2012

Weak wideouts still a problem
If the Browns are honest with themselves, they’ll admit the weakest area on the team after the college draft and free-agent signings is wide receiver.

Mike Holmgren is in the middle of an extended stay in the blissful state of denial about his team’s wideouts, believing the coming change at quarterback will solve most, if not all, the problems.

The club president has taken General Manager Tom Heckert Jr. and coach Pat Shurmur along on this little ride into fantasyland. That’s clearly obvious since neither the GM nor coach has talked his notion back.

OK, so Holmgren knows quarterbacks. At least he did until coming to Cleveland, where his track record is taking somewhat of a beating. He is clearly gambling that rookie Brandon Weeden will step right in and help validate his assessment of the wide receivers.

He expects Weeden to turn Greg Little, Mo Massaquoi, Joshua Cribbs, Jordan Norwood and the tight ends into something other than what they were last season: mediocre at best.

Never mind the fact that they nearly led the National Football League in dropped passes last season. Or that they ran lazy routes. Or that they often times ran the wrong routes. Or, in the case of Massaquoi, had trouble getting off the line of scrimmage.

That’s not all the fault of the quarterback. In those cases, they made Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace look worse than they actually were.

If Little, Massaquoi, Cribbs, Norwood, rookie Travis Benjamin and the tight ends play anywhere near  the same way this season, Weeden’s baptism in the NFL is going to be awfully painful.

It is incumbent on assistant coaches Mike Wilson (wide receivers) and Steve Hagen (tight ends) to correct the flaws that hampered the receivers last season. They must eliminate the little, nagging mistakes that prevented McCoy and Wallace from putting up better numbers in 2011.

Weeden will have enough pressure stepping into the starting role as a rookie. And this time, he won’t have Justin Blackmon to bail him out as he did at Oklahoma State the last couple of seasons.

The new quarterback will need all the help he can get with an offense that requires precision. As displayed last season in the Browns' first dalliance with the west coast offense, bad timing was a major factor.

Optimists say it can’t be any worse than last season. Oh yes it can, especially with a rookie who has never operated in this offensive system. It’s going to take time – and a massive amount of patience – before the new Cleveland offensive motor hums quietly and efficiently.

But it’ll never happen unless the receivers on this team start playing the kind of football that makes opposing defensive coordinators take notice.

Having Trent Richardson behind Weeden and an improved offensive line will go just so far in resurrecting the moribund Cleveland offense. If the ghosts of last season’s receiving corps show up, Weeden’s rookie season will be memorable in a most unkind way.

So let’s not get too comfortable with that corps until we see more than just marginal improvement. They’ve got a lot of ground to make up and very little time in which to do it.

And you can bet Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmur will be watching intently.


  1. No Rich you`ve got it all wrong... This isn`t what is trendy right now! This year Colt isn`t NFL material and the WR`s didn`t have a fair shot last year.... Come on man! It`s 2012 get with the new attitude...

  2. Oops. Sorry. Is it too late to take it all back?

  3. For the life of me I still don't understand why we were't willing to over pay for Piere Gardon from Indy, he would have made Little better and why we haven't put the kid from USF (Carlton) out there to see if he can sink or swim (he's at least got some size and speed) as Mo has never been the same since the concussins started.

    1. Hi Colorado,

      Too understand why Holmgren and Heckert did not go after Garçon, you'd have to crawl inside their heads. Best guess is they were satisfied with their current crop of wide receivers and did not feel the need to overpay.

      Except for a couple of journeyman defensive linemen, they exhibited no taste for free agents.

      As for Carlton Mitchell, he's not that good. In fact, he's not good at all. He's a track guy who wants to play professional football and can't do the one thing you'd expect of a wideout: catch the ball.

      Speed means nothing if it does not translate into something positive. There's a very good reason it hasn't with Mitchell. He's out of his element as a football player.

      You're right about Massaquoi. I don't think he'll ever be the player he was in his first two seasons for the reason you stated. I wouldn't be surprised if Massaquoi and Mitchell fail to make the team.

  4. I believe a lot of the problems the Browns will face in 2012 is a result of not being active in the free agent market. We sign one of the young right tackles and experienced wide receiver and it makes a lot easier in the draft. Our second round pick could have been one top 5 wide receivers in the draft. The challenge this team has on the offensive side of the ball is how do you become proficient on offense with lack of experience at running back, wide receiver, offensive line and QB. It will 8-10 games to get these guys playing together. Guess what the toughest part of our schedule is in Nov. and Dec. So my position is that we will be lucky to win 6 games this year because the leadership of this team made a conscious decision not to be agressive in free agency. I expect next year they will sign one big name free agent and be ready to compete for the playoffs. That is if Weeden works out at QB. 2012 will be a longh season in C-Town and H&H know it.

  5. Careful Robert. You're beginning to sound like me.

    Obviously, Holmgren and Heckert are not fans of free agency. How else can you explain the pickups of Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker? Yeah, that's really going to help.

    Don't worry about the running back situation. Trent Richardson will do very well if he stays healthy. He's much more the solution that the problem. It's how well Brandon Weeden assimilates to the pro game.

    I think opposing defensive coordinators will force Weeden to do something he's not accustomed to: throw the ball early. He also does not have Colt MCoy's athleticism. Ergo, his sack total very well could be extremely high.

    We agree on the long season aspect, but not the schedule. According to the league, the Browns have the fourth-toughest schedule this season. There are perils all along the way. There is no easy part.

    Right now, I'm right there with you at six victories. And that's being optimistic. Yikes!

    Regards to Diane.

  6. I see Richardson biggest challenge is running behind a young offensive line and the lack of a top notch deep threat. First down will be 8 men in the box and even with his talent there will be few holes to find. This team desparately needs effective wide receivers and after last year only Little gives us hope. If Weeden works out, which he has the potential to be at least good. We can move forward with the development of this team. The unfortunate part is that this will be another losing season and I beleive H&H know that. They are trying to buy time to be competitive next year.

    Do I like whAT they are doing? YES. Just not fast enough and they could have alleviated that with a more aggressive approach in free agency.

  7. Remember one thing. The Browns play in a very tough division. The Ravens are reloading; the Bengals have finally figured it out; but the Steelers are beginning to show aging cracks in their foundation, although they had a pretty good draft. There's an awful lot of ground for the Browns to make up. In other divisions, that might be possible. Not this one.