Three weeks into the regular season and the Cleveland Browns own a 1-2 record. Despite recording two losses, Cleveland has been competitive and could arguably be undefeated. As expected, the Browns have relied on the ground attack, but our receiving corps has been impressive. With Josh Gordon unavailable until week 11, four wide outs have been productive in his absence.
Although Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin are not the top targets, they have quietly racked up yardage. A three year pro, Benjamin has four grabs for 69 yards and a touchdown. Gabriel, a rookie, has gained 99 yards on six catches. They both possess the speed required to create separation. Both receivers have big play capability as Benjamin’s longest reception went for 43 yards while Gabriel recorded a 70 yard gain against Baltimore. Defenses don’t focus on these sleepers, allowing the opportunity for a big play.
Despite their success, the resurgence of Miles Austin has been spectacular. After years of residing in Dez Bryant’s shadow, Austin emerges as Cleveland’s number one option. The nine year veteran has been defended by the opposing team’s top cornerback and has looked marvelous. Through three games, the former Cowboy has registered two red zone touchdowns in addition to 115 yards on 14 receptions. Already in this young season, Austin has a couple of clutch catches under his belt.
With the word clutch in mind, no one has been more deserving of that label than Andrew Hawkins. The slot receiver has evolved into Brian Hoyer’s number one weapon. The four year pro has logged 21 grabs for 244 yards, despite not yet reaching the end zone. This kid is all over the field, catching balls outside the numbers as well as in between them. Unlike Davone Bess, Hawkins has proven to be a reliable third down target. In addition, 14 out of his 21 receptions have resulted in a first down.
Cleveland’s receivers have already exceeded expectations, silencing the critics that labeled this group “weak.” All of our guys can only improve upon their already commendable performances. Although it appears this group will survive without Josh Gordon, his return will add something special to the offensive production.