Picking Up the Slack

OBR Senior Browns Reporter
Posted Sep 6, 2013


With Josh Gordon serving a two-game suspension, the bulk of wide receiver responsibility falls upon Travis Benjamin and Davone Bess. They are ready.

 

BEREA, Ohio--There's good news and bad news for the Browns at the wide receiver position.

The bad news is Josh Gordon will miss the first two games of the regular season after being suspended by the NFL for substance abuse.

Gordon had a big rookie season and looked as though he was ready to blossom as the Browns No. 1 receiver, who could stretch the field in Norv Turner's vertical passing game. The Browns hope that still happens, but it will be put on hold for at least two weeks.

The good news is that the Browns have Davone Bess and Travis Benjamin, who should be able to pick up the slack in Gordon's absence.

Brandon Weeden admitted earlier this week that the offense will miss Gordon.

"It hurts," Weeden said. "(Gordon's) a talented player that we're gong to rely on for 14 games, but I'm confident in the other guys."

Turner said he expects Bess and Benjamin to step up and make big plays.

"They have to," he said. "We've worked on all the things that we're going to do with them and they've been practicing at a high level. It's been great to have Davone back. He not only missed those games, he missed quite a bit of practice. He's a veteran player. He can handle it. It's still making sure he's on the same page with Brandon. Those guys just have to step up and make the plays that are there for them."

Minus Gordon, barring a move, the Browns will only have four wide receivers suited up for the game in Bess, Benjamin, Greg Little and Josh Cooper. Rob Chudzinski isn't concerned with the low numbers.

"Bess and Benjamin will be co-starters," he said. "We'll be OK. I've done it before."

Bess was acquired in a trade on draft day, ironically, with the Dolphins and will start his Browns career against the only NFL team he has played for. He is expected to be a key contributor on third downs, as he is the 14th most productive receiver in the NFL over the past four years.

In 77 career games with the Dolphins, Bess had 321 receptions for 3,447 yards, including 12 touchdowns.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton mentioned how he felt the Dolphins would miss Bess when he was talking about the Dolphins' receivers.

"I'm glad we have Davone Bess here," Horton said Thursday. "He's a critical part of what Miami used to do, and I think they've lost something in what they used to do and I'm glad he's here now."

Bess has been slowed with tendinitis in his knee, but he isn't concerned.

"From a mental standpoint, I'm ready to go and my knee is fine."

Bess said he has a full grasp of the offense.

"I was fortunate to come over in the spring, so I got here at the beginning of the OTAs," he said "So from that to training camp to preseason to the regular season now has definitely given me the amount of reps that I needed in order to pick up the chemistry and be able to fill that void wherever I'm needed at. I think Norv and the coaches have put us in position to make plays, but most of all retaining information."

Bess said he harbors no bitter feelings against the Dolphins, who gave him an opportunity as an undrafted free agent from Hawaii.

"It would be easy getting emotional this week, but I want to treat this game like its any other," he said. "We all know the NFL is a business. When I got traded, it was in the best interests of the Miami Dolphins.

"For the most part, there is still mutual respect. but there is a little part of you that always wants to show a team that they made a mistake."

Benjamin is excited to get the opportunity.

"It's a great opportunity for me knowing I'm the next man up and just going in there and taking advantage of the plays I'm in and hopefully, I'll come out and play well," he said. "It's a pretty good feeling knowing we get to go out there and showcase our talents."

He is expected to be busy as he also returns punts and might be called upon to also return kickoffs, but he feels he's up for it.

"I'm in great shape knowing that I can do return kickoff, return offense," he said. "I'm just ready to go out and play.

"It's not a lot," he said. "I've done it plenty of times before (in college)."

Benjamin didn't play a lot in the preseason, with just three receptions, but he did return a punt 93 yards for a touchdown.

"In the preseason, it was kind of a game plan that I would be in certain situations and we had some three-and-outs or the other side had the ball too long," he said. "There just wasn't the right opportunity, so hopefully, in the Dolphins game there will be more opportunities."

Benjamin thinks he and Bess will handle the role just fine.

"We'll do good," Benjamin said. "If I'm in, I'll tell (Bess) what I see him in the game or when he comes off the field, he will tell me what he sees in the game and the opportunities.

"Knowing that it's the next man up mentality, even though I'm in or Davone is in, we know when the ball comes our way, we have to make the most of our opportunities.

"We just want to play our game, whether it's a deep (pass) early and take advantage of every play that is called."

Bess said he has a simple focus.

"My only goal is trying to get the Cleveland Browns a win against the Miami Dolphins."

EXTRA POINTS

Mingo Out: Rookie LB Barkevious Mingo was officially ruled out of the opening game with a bruised lung, but there's a chance he will play in week two against the Ravens. Mingo bruised the lung on the opening kickoff against the Lions in the second preseason game.

"We've been evaluating and testing him on a daily basis," Chudzinski said. "The doctors have been constantly doing that, so we'll hold him out for this week."

The obvious question was next week's game with the Ravens. A national report said Mingo would miss the opener but was expected back for the second game.

"We'll see next week," Chudzinski said. "He's made progress every day. He's running more and doing more things. It's more a matter of him having not practiced this week. Until he's full speed, we'll hold him out."

Mingo spoke to reporters after the he was declared out.

"I would say (I'm) disappointed," Mingo said. "I want to be out there with the team. I want to be able to play in my first game, but looking on the bright side I am doing better and just ready to come back whenever they will let me come back."

Mingo said he's not had any reoccurrence of the symptoms he experienced with shortness of breath and spitting up some blood.

"They're just trying to ease me back into the practices and see how it felt," he said. "Everything felt good.

"I felt great out there," he said. "I felt back to normal. Everything is doing good."

There was no timetable given as to whether Mingo will play next week against the Ravens.

"I'm coming back whenever they will let me," he said. "We'll see what the coaches and doctors tell me."

Mingo was asked if he had more tests this week, but Chudzinski had already said he had.

"That's personal," he said smiling.

Mingo said he was definitely excited to be back on the practice field.

"It was getting boring watching and I was happy to get out there and do something," he said. "I'm ready to get back into it."

Skrine Questionable: Starting right cornerback Buster Skrine showed up on the injury report Thursday with a shoulder injury. He was listed as questionable on the injury report which means there's a 50/50 chance he will play. The Browns only have four cornerbacks on the roster and CB Chris Owens missed the past two preseason games with a foot injury. Skrine was on the stationary bike during the portion of practice open to the media.

If Skrine was unable to play, CB Chris Owens will likely start in his place and rookie CB Leon McFadden will move up to the third spot. The Browns only have four cornerbacks currently on the active roster.

"I'm always preparing," Owens said. "You have to be prepared for injury. You have to stay ready."

Owens said he's experienced no pain in his foot and he's not worried if Skrine cannot play.

"I'm not worried about it," he said. "It's the next guy up mentality."

Chudzinski said some of the safeties have practiced at cornerback.

"We roll a lot of guys through practice," Chudzinski said.

DB Johnson Bademosi was switched to safety this year after playing cornerback in the preseason and the Browns have five defensive backs on their eight-man practice squad, including three cornerbacks.

"I'm ready for any opportunity," he said.

Ray Horton said a player's versatility is key for the defense.

"I think part of our strength is that we have multiple players who can play multiple positions," Horton said on Thursday.

Chudzinski said the Browns could make a roster move.

"That's always a possibility, but we feel we have three safeties who can play cornerback, as well."

Questionable Ends: DL Ahtyba Rubin was missing during the portion of practice open to the media. DL Desmond Bryant has been limited through the preseason with back spasms and has been limited all week during practice. However, Bryant was upgraded to probable on Friday.

Rubin is scheduled to start at left defensive end opposite of Bryant. Rubin had 44 tackles in 13 games last season, including two sacks. He missed three games with a calf injury.

"Rubin came in with a strained calf after practice (Thursday)," Chudzinski said. "We'll see how he responds to treatment in the next 48 hours."

Rubin missed three games in 2012 with a calf injury, but Chudzinski said it was a totally different injury.

Chudzinski is confident the Browns will be able to handle Rubin's absence. DL Billy Winn played a lot in the preseason in place of Desmond Bryant.

"I feel the defensive line is one of the positions that we had depth and we made sure we kept enough guys and extra guys up front and that's the reason why," Chudzinski said. "Billy is very versatile as well as (Ishmaa'ily Kitchen) and Armonty Bryant, Rubin isn't available."

Others on the injury report are: OUT: OL Shawn Lauvao (ankle) and LB Barkevious Mingo (lung); QUESTIONABLE: DL Ahtyba Rubin, DB Buster Skrine (shoulder); PROBABLE: WR Davone Bess (knee), TE Jordan Cameron (groin), LB Eric Martin (foot), DB Chris Owens (foot), LB Jabaal Sheard (illness) and DL Desmond Bryant (back).

Captain, My Captain: Chudzinski said the team voted for team captains and named OL Joe Thomas as the offensive captain, LB D'Qwell Jackson as the defensive captain and LB Quentin Groves was the special teams captain for the season. WR Davone Bess is the fourth captain for this week.

Groves and Bess are with the Browns for their first year.

"I'm thankful for my teammates for choosing me," Groves said.

How do you Do: The Browns have 24 new players on the active roster from a year ago, including seven unrestricted free agents, four free agents, eight from waivers and four draft picks. They also add Bess in a trade. The Browns have 13 second year players, 13 rookies and one first year player. They also have nine undrafted free agent rookies.

Dueling QBs: The two quarterbacks in Sunday's game were both first-round draft picks in 2012. QB Ryan Tannehill was the 8th overall selected and QB Brandon Weeden was selected 22nd overall. Weeden finished second among rookies with 3,385 yards and Tannehill was third with 3,294 yards

Weeden said that he and Tannehill have faced each other in college while Tannehill was at Texas A & M and Weeden at Oklahoma State.

"We've had some good games," Weeden said.

Tannehill was a wide receiver, who was later converted to quarterback.

Worth Quoting: Chudzinski when asked if he was ready to challenge a call after not doing so in the preseason.

"I practiced throwing my flag, so i'm not worried about that."


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