Cleveland Browns: RG3 put in tough spot with Hartline gone
Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III faces a unique situation after the team released veteran receiver Brian Hartline.
The Cleveland Browns continued the rebuilding process by announcing the release of Brian Hartline Monday afternoon. The veteran receiver only played one year in Cleveland, and was expected to be a valuable mentor to the four rookie wide receivers drafted by the Browns this year.
But the Browns have been making it clear that no veteran player is safe, and that the focus will indeed be on building through the draft.
This is a smart strategy for a team that has struggled since the beginning of the century, but it may mean that 2016 will be another rough year of players figuring out their roles and adjusting to the NFL game.
One player facing the possibility of a tough season is Robert Griffin III, who just lost a reliable, veteran target in Hartline.
Hartline was not a receiver who would blow by secondaries and be the team’s leading receiver, but he is the type of receiver to haul in those difficult passes for first downs when the rest of the group may be struggling.
But now he is gone, and with Travis Benjamin’s departure earlier this year, Griffin is left without the two top wide receivers in terms of total yards last season.
He still has Gary Barnidge and Duke Johnson Jr., who finished first and third respectively on the team in terms of receiving yards last season, but Griffin needs reliable players at the wide receiver position.
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Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel finished behind Hartline in yards last season, neither reaching the 300-yard mark. And with the release of Hartline, both of their fates are still unknown. With Terrelle Pryor being looked to as a likely player to make the team, Hawkins and Gabriel may not be on the roster when the season begins.
The four rookie receivers, Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton, were brought in to contribute, and have the support of the current front office.
It is great that the front office focused on the receiver position in this year’s draft, something that hasn’t been done for a long time, but it leaves Griffin in a difficult position.
He will be tasked with helping the rookie receivers develop, while trying to run an offense that needs a great deal of fixing. He is a question mark himself, which makes the whole situation that much more precarious.
The receivers need Griffin to play well in order for them to shine as well, so if he struggles it will have adverse effect on the receivers, and the offense as a whole.
Aside from the offensive line, Barnidge becomes the most important player on offense, as he will need be great again if Griffin and the offense is to have any success at the beginning of the season. This will allow the currently unproven rookie receivers to get used to both the offense and the NFL.
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If Griffin is to lead this offense to any wins in 2016, the rookies must replace the holes left by Benjamin and Hartline.