Cleveland Browns: With Josh Gordon back, wide receivers among best

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Damarious Randall #23 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Damarious Randall #23 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The return of Josh Gordon and the emergence of a rookie and a third-year receiver have the Cleveland Browns group of wide receivers looking elite.

Now that Corey Coleman has moved on to Buffalo, the top receivers for the Cleveland Browns will likely be better known for their hands, rather than their drops. With the vacancy left in Coleman’s departure, the top four in the group have likely been established, and several youngsters are also making names for themselves.

First off, welcome back Josh Gordon! His struggles will certainly continue off the field. However, in learning how to deal with them, the burden should ease significantly. Recent TMZ reports of child support issues and the invasion of HBO’s Hard Knocks crew likely made his brief hiatus necessary. Nevertheless, Gordon has returned and provides the Browns with one of the league’s best, if not the best, at the position.

Jarvis Landry has two hands, but he only needs one. Time and again, he offers wow-inspiring plays and one-handed catches. Following his arrival via trade with the Miami Dolphins, two things crossed my mind: he is known for his hands and for his low yard-per-catch average.

It now appears that his hands are made of some type of adhesive substance and his low YPC average means little. If his former coaches needed him as a slot receiver and he is now to be utilized down the field as well, that stat should soon be as remarkable as his others (over 400 catches and 4,000 yards in only four years).

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It does appear that he will be fighting to retain his nickname of “Juice” following the standout play in Preseason Week 2 of journeyman tight end Devon Cajuste.

Rashard Higgins struggled to find his place in his first two years in the NFL. Year 3, however, seems to be the year he breaks out and makes a name for himself. Whether it was the NFL learning curve or shoddy quarterback play of the past, Higgins has repeatedly proven himself a worthy receiver throughout training camp and the first two preseason games. Look for Higgins to be a reliable third or fourth receiving option this year.

Meanwhile, Antonio Callaway remains the wild card of the group. The rookie entered the league with a well-documented history of troubles and has not yet seemed to have closed that chapter in his life. From offering a diluted urine sample at to NFL Combine to his recent citation for marijuana possession, he has offered significant cause for concern.

With that said, his play on the field has been noteworthy. He found some struggles in the beginning with some dropped passes, but found his bearings and lit up the highlight reel during the Browns’ first preseason game against the Giants. If his troubles have ended, look for Callaway to earn the third spot on the depth chart and find significant work in the slot.

While the preseason is young, the young receivers on the Browns roster are settling into a pecking order and the top four offer a combination that will offer endless options for Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield.

Several others are making their presence felt and looking to secure roster spots as additional depth at wideout and/or on special teams. Of these, Derrick Willies has recently stood out as a possible up-and-comer with his two touchdown receptions against the Bills. Although both were for naught as they were erased — one via penalty and one via official review — the talent he offers is surely something to keep an eye on.

Willies was not alone in offering glimpses of capability. Both Damion Ratley and Da’Mari Scott have shown intrigue, and it appears C.J. Board and Evan Berry are both also in consideration as return specialists.

It remains to be seen who will claim the available roster spots, but the offensive playmaking struggles certainly seem to be nearing an end. The additional hands of tight ends David Njoku and Seth DeValve along with running back Duke Johnson will certainly litter the field with valid receiving options and the accuracy now available at quarterback will no doubt take advantage.

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The pick-your-poison threats in the passing game for the Cleveland Browns will surely wreak havoc on opposing defenses in 2018. The Dawg Pound is due and the optimism of fans is certainly warranted. The wide receivers in brown and orange not only offer superb talent but good depth as well.