BEREA—Most Browns observers from fans to media, including the OBR staff have clamored for bringing in a veteran presence at the wide receiving corps.
Let’s face it, Jake Delhomme is coming off a very shaky season in Carolina where he had Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith. What do the Browns have as currently constructed?
The current roster of wide receivers list Chansi Stuckey, Joshua Cribbs, Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi, Syndric Steptoe, Jake Allen, James Robinson, Carlton Mitchell and Johnathan Haggerty.
Eric Mangini and staff seem to be content to go to training camp with the current group. The Browns were content to let veteran Mike Furrey sign with the Redskins and so far haven’t brought in a veteran. That could change between now and training camp, but don’t count on it.
Cribbs has the most experience in the NFL entering his sixth season, but has played very little at receiver. He caught 20 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown last season. Stuckey came over from the Jets as the main player in the Braylon Edwards trade. He combined with the Jets and Browns to have 30 receptions for 318 yards and two touchdowns (19 for 198 yards and a touchdown for the Browns).
Massaquoi tied for the team lead with Jerome Harrison with 34 receptions for 624 yards and three touchdowns. Robiskie caught just seven passes for 106 yards, including a 43 yarder.
The rest of the receivers had no NFL catches in 2009.
In fact, the current contingent of receivers combined for 91 receptions for 1,153 yards and six touchdowns. Nine NFL receivers individually, had more catches and yardage than the Browns receivers combined.
The emergence of the second-year receivers, particularly Robiskie is of utmost importance. Robiskie has caught the attention of the coaches since OTAs and caught as many as six touchdown passes Friday morning.
“I think it has a lot to do with them because that’s why it was important at the time we drafted those guys,” Mangini said. “They keep plugging away and keep working all season, after the season after practice on the jugs machine.
“Typically, people with high work ethic will get better.”
Some think the change in quarterbacks to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace is the difference.
“It’s tough to say the main ingredient is the change in quarterback,” Mangini said. “They have a year under their belt and that makes a big difference.”
Stuckey is virtually the gray beard at receiver at 25, but he’s impressed with Massaquoi and Robiskie.
“I think those guys are doing great,” Stuckey said. “Those guys have been making plays. They’re blue-collar type guys that work very hard and have a lot of pride in getting better.”
Stuckey says the big difference from year one to year two is one thing.
“The big thing is consistency,” Stuckey said. “From their rookie year, they have settled down and been able to get in a groove.”
“I think Robo is having a great camp,” Mangini said. “Since we have started OTAs, he’s done a nice job. He’s a lot more comfortable running precise routes. That’s one of the things we liked about him coming out of Ohio State.
“Mo has had a nice camp and so has Chansi,” he said. “(Mo’s) has outstanding hands. There were times last year in practice that he made some unbelievable catches. Now, it’s route in and route out to continue to be consistent.
“For a young guy, I thought he did some good things,” he said. “The thing about those young receivers, is they block and they block and they finish the plays.”
Stuckey believes the present corps of receivers will play well.
“We’re very young in age and experience,” Stuckey said. “But in terms of experience, I’m only in my fourth year but I’m one of the oldest guys out there.”
Stuckey said he is much more comfortable after coming over in mid-season a year ago and now feels he’s ready to assume a leadership role.
“It’s extremely tough to come in the middle of the season and gain the guys trust,” Stuckey said. “You want to lead, but you have to work hard and earn the trust of your teammates.
“I’ve had to mature quicker and take on a leadership role.”
Stuckey will most likely be the third down receiver and relishes his role.
“I love the slot,” Stuckey said. “That’s what I’ve been playing my whole life.”
Mangini mentioned a couple of the rookies that have caught his eye in Mitchell and Haggerty. Mitchell was a sixth-round draft choice, while Haggerty is an undrafted free agent from SW Oklahoma State.
“Carlton is making steps and he’s going to get in that area where he’s confused,” he said. “He’s done some positive things. Haggerty has shown up once or twice a day and now it is consistency. There are going to be peaks and valleys with those guys.
“(Haggerty) is a bright guy and every day he goes out and makes his case,” Mangini said. “We have a lot of guys we brought in and you have to pop up and pop up. He’s got more looks because what he’s done.”
Hardesty Progressing: RB Montario Hardesty is pleased with his progress. He has been working with the first team offense and has alternated with RB Jerome Harrison.
“I’ve picked up the offense for the most part,” he said. “Things are starting to slow down for me on the field a bit.”
The coaches and media have talked about his hands since the rookie minicamp and he said that’s a part of the game he works at a lot.
“I caught like 30 passes last year (at Tennessee),” he said. “I work on (receiving) the ball all the time because I don’t want to be a liability in the passing game.”
Mangini continues to be pleased with Hardesty’s progress. He has done well in the classroom.
“He’s gotten a lot of reps with the ones and he seems comfortable there,” he said. “It doesn’t faze him and he’s done well.”
More AM Practice Notes: In the morning two-minute offense, QB Jake Delhomme started the drive with a 25-yard crossing pattern completion to WR Chansi Stuckey and then a short completion to WR Mohamed Massaquoi. After throwing a pass away after a fumbled snap, Delhomme completed the drive with a touchdown pass to Massaquoi as he beat DB Matt Harris and DB DeAngelo Smith… In goal line, Delhomme found WR Brian Robiskie for a touchdown. Although not official, it appeared as though Robiskie caught five or six touchdowns in Friday morning’s practice…In the two-minute offense, rookie OL Shawn Lauvao was with the first team at right guard and OL John St. Clair was at right tackle…Delhomme threw a bullet to TE Robert Royal for a touchdown and Royal made a nice grab with his arms extended…RB Jerome Harrison dropped a swing pass from Delhomme in goal line and RB James Davis fumbled, but picked up the ball in goal line…QB Brett Ratliff threw a touchdown to RB Jed Collins…QB Seneca Wallace had his first pass batted down in two-minute offense and then after an incompletion, hit rookie WR Johnathan Haggerty with two over the middle passes. He was sacked on the final play.