Sep 7, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin (11) returns a kick-off against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
In his third season with the Browns, wide receiver Travis Benjamin led the team in touchdown receptions. While that may be cause of celebration, the party gets a little less raucous when you realize that Benjamin only needed three touchdown receptions to top the list – and he had all three by Week 4.
Benjamin has only caught 41 passes in his career with the Browns and wide receiver room is suddenly getting crowded in Berea. The team returns Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel, added Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline in free agency, and drafted Vince Mayle (although he is recovering from surgery to repair a broken thumb). That is a lot of competition for a player who has only shown flashes of being an NFL wide receiver.
Benjamin’s biggest contribution to the Browns used to be as a punt returner. Prior to injuring his knee after eight games of the 2013 season, Benjamin had averaged 16.24 yards per return and scored two touchdowns. But he struggled so much last season that the Browns turned to Jim Leonhard to handle the punt returns, even though all he was capable of doing was executing a fair catch.
The Browns have publicly expressed confidence in Benjamin, with special teams coach Chris Tabor saying that, “I think he’s a great football player. I’m excited for him to have the opportunity to play like Travis Benjamin in the return game. I’ve got great confidence that he can get that done. Do we still need to work on things? We do, but the good news is he’s a willing participant and he wants to do that. That’s why I’m so fired up about what he can do.”
The reality, though, is that the Browns drafted two players, Johnson and cornerback Charles Gaines, who have the ability to return punts, so if Benjamin can’t crack the lineup as a wide receiver and continues to struggle as a return man, he may be plying his trade elsewhere this fall.
Next: Defensive Lineman Phil Taylor