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Browns positional analysis: Wide receivers

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Posted Feb. 21, 2011 @ 11:35 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

This is the third in a series of position-by-position looks at the Browns' personnel entering the 2011 season. Here is our analysis of Cleveland's WR situation.

Overview: When Browns president Mike Holmgren met with the media in November, he was asked whether the club's offense would get its wideouts more involved if the wideouts were more talented. Holmgren's answer was telling. 

"Let's not jump on the receivers too much here," said Holmgren, who cited the club's propensity to attack the middle of the field, its propensity to target wide receivers less than other offenses did and then-offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's belief in his scheme as reasons the wideouts' numbers were down. "Honest to goodness, I think they're pretty good, but their numbers just haven't been very good.

"… The emphasis seems to be (TE Benjamin) Watson's catching more passes, (slot WR Chansi) Stuckey's catching more passes, our backs are catching more passes. I would like to see, as you would, our wide receivers catch more passes, but it's not happening, and I think there are two or three reasons there that I stated as the reasons they're not. 

"To be, I think, the most effective offensive team you can be, I think it's important that they catch passes, I would say that. I think as we mature as an offensive football team, I would like to see that."

With the hiring of former Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as head coach in January, you can expect the Browns to employ an offense closer to the one Holmgren himself would run. Case in point: the Rams targeted their wideouts on 65.1 percent of their pass plays in 2010, while Cleveland targeted its wide receivers just 47.7 percent of the time. 

With the wideouts expected to get more passes thrown their way, let's see if any personnel changes are coming. Young WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have shown some promise, but they were drafted by former head coach Eric Mangini for an offense no longer in place. 

Here's a breakdown of each of the wide receivers on the roster, in alphabetical order:

Joshua Cribbs: Cribbs showed progress as a receiver early in the season, with a long TD catch vs. Kansas City in Week Two perhaps the highlight of his campaign. However, his opportunities in the offense dwindled after he suffered four injured toes in Week 10. He finished with 23 catches for 292 yards and one TD. 

Johnathan Haggerty: A 2010 undrafted free agent, Haggerty spent the season on injured reserve. 

Mohamed Massaquoi: Massaquoi was targeted 73 times, most among Browns wideouts, and he caught 36 passes for 483 yards and two TDs. He has shown an ability to stretch the field but has lacked consistency at times. 

Carlton Mitchell: A sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Mitchell played in five games, with one carry for nine yards. He's one of the more intriguing receivers on the roster, for he has some upside and didn't play much last season. 

Jordan Norwood: He was signed to the Browns' roster from the practice squad on Nov. 30, 2010 but did not appear in a game last season. He could contend for one of the final spots on the WR depth chart. 

Brian Robiskie: He came on nicely at the end of the season, with one TD catch of at least 20 yards in each of the last three games. However, he had shown little before that point. 

Chansi Stuckey: Stuckey, who played inside as a slot receiver, was targeted 63 times, catching 40 passes for 346 yards and no TDs. Stuckey, who has four years of experience, is slated to be a free agent. 

Demetrius Williams: The former Ravens deep threat appeared in two games for Cleveland last season, recording no statistics. He'll compete for a reserve role. 

Rod Windsor: Windsor was signed to the Browns' practice squad on Nov. 30, 2010, was cut Dec. 7, then signed a reserve/futures contract in January. He also played in the UFL and AFL in 2010. 

Bottom line: The Browns' plans at this position bear watching. Holmgren has been reluctant to blame the wideouts for their lack of production. Do the Browns bring back most of the wideouts and give them a chance to produce in Shurmur's West Coast scheme, or are bigger changes coming? 

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