Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Still Struggling for Reception

By establishing Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie as the starting receivers, the Browns are relying on two second-year wide receivers.

The problem with that is there is growing evidence that a majority of wide receivers don’t adjust to the speed of the game and fully understand how to read defenses and run routes until their third season.

In his book, Take Your Eye off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, Pat Kirwan, a senior analyst on NFL.com and former coach and front office member, highlights what a receiver must do during a play:

“It’s on the post-snap read that a receiver gets the true indicator of what the defensive back is going to do. If the cornerback lines up 7 or 8 yards off the line of scrimmage and is aligned with the receiver’s outside shoulder, it might look like off and soft to the receiver. But the receiver can’t be sure until after the snap, when he’ll see the cornerback backpedal and reveal his deep coverage principles. The receiver then immediately must decide whether he’s going to run a post, a deep curl or something in front of the deep coverage. That decision will also depend on another factor – the drop his quarterback will be taking, something the receiver must always be aware of.”

Another area young receivers struggle with is getting release off the line of scrimmage. Kirwan explains:

“Some great college receivers can’t even get off the line of scrimmage in the NFL. They never faced big, strong cornerbacks, guys who are 6’0″, 200 pounds and can bench 400 pounds. Some great college receivers never even have a chance to think about reading coverages because they’re too busy trying to get out of their stance.”

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar gave still another example of the learning curve required of NFL wide receivers in an article in The Plain Dealer:

“Those passes down the sidelines that guys can’t catch and stay in bounds,” said Kosar. “If you watch them, you see that the receivers are 1-2 yards away from the sidelines as they run down field. That’s too close. They should be 5-6 yards. You want to give the quarterback about 15 feet to throw the ball between the receiver and the sidelines.”

On their training camp tour for Sirius NFL Radio, Kirwan and his on-air partner Tim Ryan talked about how the Browns receivers did not have the extra gear needed to get separation on a defensive back and give the quarterback an opportunity to drop the ball in. Without that speed, Massaquoi and Robiskie have to find other ways to get open, and that will only come with time.

The more you read about what it takes to be a successful NFL wide receiver, the more you realize what a big project this is for the team. And these examples are just the start; it’s not even taking into account how responsibilities change if you are the X, Y or Z receiver on a given play.

Of course, the Browns find themselves in this conundrum of their own doing. Because they did not have the proper people in place for the 2009 NFL Draft, they drafted two wide receivers in the same year, hoping they would be able to contribute sooner rather than later. By throwing in with Massaquoi and Robiskie, for better or worse the team has to live with the mistakes, limitations and growing pains.

There were calls during the preseason for the Browns to get a veteran player to be the No. 1 receiver. But there are a couple of problems with that. First, there are really only a handful of true No. 1 receivers in the league: Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. That’s pretty much it; everyone else is a notch (or further) behind that group.

So that leaves the team looking at two options, neither of which is very appealing:

  • Sign an older receiver on the downward part of his career – T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Terrell Owens for example. But having someone like that who is not a long-term solution would just slow the development of the young receivers even more.
  • Sign a problem player like Vincent Jackson. But if the Browns didn’t want to deal with Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow, why would they want to take a chance on someone who is only one more incident away from a year-long suspension?

Like most things, all this takes time and patience. The first Browns fans have; the second is continually being tested, but we haven’t hit the bottom of the well just yet.

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2 thoughts on “Still Struggling for Reception

  1. pullo! where you at on mangini?

    i'm getting blistered because i see questionable management decisions (eg, benching-after-mistake policy; keeping injured delhomme in 2nd half at TB; throwing daboll under bus.) and i'm calling them out. i think he's demonstrating the characteristics the led to his dismissal from the jets.. the ones that he said he'd learned from.

    while i'm still hopeful that things can turn around,* i kinda resent being chastised for pointing out the obvious. should we go 12-2, i'll be as happy as anyone else, you know? it's like my loyalty is being questioned. but in spite of a good training camp and signs of growth in mangini… he seems now to be reverting to form.

    so. solomon. voice of reason. blog with no comments.** are you seeing this too?

    *I will be betting on the browns +10.5 with real money. and a win at baltimore could springboard to a successful season.. it's still within reach. but i'm not going to play it in cheddar bay. the reason is due mangini throwing his OC and players under the bus tuesday.

    ** I KID, I KID! -triumph

  2. jimkanicki:

    I'm trying very hard to remain positive about Mangini and take the longterm view of things.

    While not as fanatical about it as some (Hi Frowns!), there is a strong argument to be made to giving someone the time to do the job. The Browns can't succeed if there is continual turnover at the coaching position and in the front office.

    The question is, what if you hired the wrong person?

    I was against the hiring at the time. We were fed a storyline that Mangini had learned from his mistakes, but he was only out of work for about a week, so really how much reflection could he have done?

    But I went into this season with a clean slate on the coaching staff. With a more solid structure above Mangini in Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren, the team has now created a framework for him to succeed, or fail, based primarily on the team's on-field success. Mangini is now able to focus solely on the job he was hired to do, coach the team, and not get bogged down by trivial matters (the Jim Brown incident for example).

    I went into it more detail here:
    http://www.redright88.com/2010/08/recalibrating-on-eric-mangini.html

    I know I kind of talked around your question rather than giving a straight answer, so let's say I'm not 100 percent behind Mangini, but my pitchfork and torch are still in the shed for now.

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