Al Saunders may be the key to the Browns wide receivers

Jun 13, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Kenny Britt (18) catches a pass during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Kenny Britt (18) catches a pass during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns may not have a bunch of household names at wide receiver, but their ace in the hole could be veteran coach Al Saunders.

The Cleveland Browns unheralded wide receivers will likely not earn a place on anyone’s list of the best position groups in the league.

But they also may not be as bad as some of the darker corners of Browns nation would have fans believe.

Consider that:

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  • While possessing hamstrings that may be older than the rest of his 22-year-old body, Corey Coleman still showed enough potential as a rookie to give fans hope that he can be a big-play threat. His first season may not have gone as planned as he missed six games with a broken hand, but Coleman’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 (five receptions, 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns) showed what he is capable of.
  • He didn’t attend Ohio State, which is a crime in the eyes of far too many Browns fans, but Kenny Britt had a season in 2016 (68 receptions, 1,002 yards and five touchdowns) with the Los Angeles Rams that was every bit as good as that of the player he is replacing, Terrelle Pryor (77-1,007-4).
  • Ricardo Louis did not set the world on fire as a rookie (18 receptions for 205 yards), but he is heading into his second season full of the kind of piss and vinegar a wide receiver needs at the NFL level.
  • Either Rashard Higgins (six receptions and 77 yards) or Jordan Payton (one reception for three yards) has to contribute something. At the very least, they are better than Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, so they have that going for them.

Tasked with pulling the group together in time for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers is senior offensive assistant Al Saunders, who is in his second year with Browns but has 33 years of coaching experience on his résumé.

Related: Corey Coleman reportedly deadling with hamstring woes

Saunders realizes he has a lot of work ahead of him, but like the other veteran coaches that populate head coach Hue Jackson’s staff – think defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and offensive line coach Bob Wylie – Saunders lives for the challenge, according to

"“I live vicariously through the players that I coach. I love to be around them. I want to see them have success. I think what I have done in coaching since I have been coaching since 1970 is help players achieve their level of potential. Every day I come to work, that is the most important thing to me is helping those guys get better. I believe that we can develop them. I have always said to our personnel guys you give me a guy that can work hard, and we will make him as good as he can possibly be. What they have given me is guys that work hard."

"“I would love nothing better than our young players to reach their level, whatever that might be, of effectiveness. That is my reward as a coach is seeing players do well and progress in their skills.”"

Jackson continues to talk about how the Browns are going to be a team committed to the running game this fall, which is good news, but that commitment will certainly be tested this fall. And while there is a certain appeal to the Browns resurrecting a “three yards and a cloud of dust” style of offense, they are going to have to pass the ball every Sunday and will need someone on the other end to catch it.

If anyone can get the current group of receivers to reach their potential it is Saunders, who probably didn’t get as much credit as he deserved for helping Pryor develop into a wide receiver.

Next: Can Ricardo Louis turn his confidence into production?

If he can do that, then there is no telling what magic Saunders may be able to work with the current group of wide receivers this summer in training camp and throughout the preseason.