Cleveland Browns: Which receivers make the final roster?


The Cleveland Browns have several difficult roster decisions to make in the coming days, and none may be harder than at wide receiver.

It was a difficult evening for the Cleveland Browns offense in Tampa on Friday night as they were only able to muster 13 points. Though the first two games were not much different, the performance against the Buccaneers raises some concern among fans, many of whom thought that the offense would be much improved from a year ago.

It also raises questions about the final roster. By Tuesday at 4 p.m., all NFL teams will need to cut their rosters to a maximum of 75 players. By Saturday, the number will be reduced to 53 as the final cuts are made. For the Browns, some of the decisions head coach Hue Jackson will have to make with his coaching staff will be difficult.

Related: 6 offensive takeaways vs. Tampa Bay

One position that will provide some of the most debate among the coaches is the wide receiver position. Josh Gordon, the lone bright spot from Friday night, will miss the first four weeks of the season due to a suspension, further complicating the final decisions made at the position.

At the starting two slots, it appears that Terrelle Pryor and first-round draft pick Corey Coleman will be featured. Though Coleman was unable to record a reception in two targets on Friday night, the rookie should easily fit in within the offense.

Of course, the starters at the receiver position are not the only players who spend a substantial amount of time on the field, as certain situations and formations require alternate pass catchers. Marlon Moore and veteran Andrew Hawkins currently occupy the second string, according to the team’s unofficial depth chart, and both will most likely make the final roster. They should be joined by 5-foot-8 Taylor Gabriel, who provides value on special teams.

Related: Who benefits the most from Josh Gordon’s suspension?

Where it gets interesting, however, is behind the top five receivers on the roster. This is where the battle for scarce roster spots intensifies as it is logical to conclude that the Browns will keep seven wide receivers, assuming there are 25 offensive players kept on the final 53-man roster.

That would leave just two openings remaining for six players, a group that includes  draft picks Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins, as well as Darius JenningsEd Eagan and Josh Boyce. (Editor’s note: Boyce and Eagan were released this morning.) If just two players from this group are kept, this means that at least two draft picks must be cut and subjected to waivers if the Browns wish to put them on the practice squad.

It would seem that Friday night’s game would have given an indication of which receivers may elude the roster trimmings. However, due to several factors, including some out of these players’ control, not much of an opportunity was given to any of these borderline pass catchers to make a positive impression.

Jennings (two targets) and Eagan (one target) had one reception each, while Higgins had none on two targets. The rest of the field was not even targeted during the game. Since the Tampa Bay game gave the coaching staff little clue as to which receivers to keep, the remaining few days before roster cuts will determine the final two slots.

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Strictly based on who has impressed the most in training camp, and performed with the most professional attitude, Louis, Higgins and Jennings would appear to be the favorites for the final two spots. Payton is still behind after missing off-season workouts as he finished his classwork at UCLA, and Eagan and Boyce were long shots coming in.

It is also possible that these final few spots will come down to raw talent and potential. If this is the case, Louis, Higgins and Jennings will remain the favorites, given their explosive physical capabilities.

Even so, one of Louis, Higgins, and Jennings will likely be released. Though Louis is currently labeled as a third receiver as opposed to fourth, Higgins and Jennings are more likely to avoid the final roster cuts on Sept. 3. Since they are each so close, the difference will be special teams play, and future star potential.

Louis is more of a consistent, pure receiver, while “Hollywood” Higgins has more potential to be a future superstar. Jennings provides assistance on special teams, which is what the coaching staff values most when it comes to the final cuts. Therefore, Louis has his work cut out for him if he wishes to remain on the roster.

Next: Reality is not pretty for Browns defense

Though this is what Cleveland likely envisioned when they drafted a plethora of wide receivers, they may be pleasantly surprised with how challenging it will be to have to cut one of these draft picks.

Clearly, the Browns have an abundance of talent at the wide receiver position, which is a welcoming sign. Regardless, it will not be easy for Jackson and offensive assistant Pep Hamilton to make these final cuts.