Losing last year's league-leading wide receiver to a potentially lengthy suspension would cripple Kyle Shanahan's passing game and make the Browns a candidate to lead the NFL in carries one year after they topped the league in pass attempts.
Grizzled veteran Miles Austin and Nate Burleson were added to a corps of pass-catchers that also include jitterbug Andrew Hawkins and subpackage burner Travis Benjamin. The rest of the depth chart is enigmatic, but here's one name that continues to bubble up: Charles Johnson, who ESPNCleveland.com called a "revelation in the first days of training camp" on the heels of last season's ACL injury.
"The easy things are all the recognizables right away, that he's 6-foot-2 and a half, 215 pounds," Browns general manager Ray Farmer told reporters on Sunday. "He ran a 4.38 40 (yard dash). Those are the easy pieces, but when you watch the tape you like his hands. You like the fact that he can run the routes, and right now it's a young man that put a lot of work to recovering from an ACL injury. You can see that he's big. He's still fast and he can run routes and catch the football."
Farmer scouted Johnson at Division II's Grand Valley State before the wideout was drafted last year by the Packers, who lost Johnson to Cleveland when the Browns plucked him off Green Bay's practice squad in October.
"He's explosive," coach Mike Pettine said. "He's a guy that is deceptively fast. He doesn't look like he's covering a lot of ground but he is. I think his catch radius is bigger than most. He's got long arms and he's got (big) hands. He's a guy that we hope can emerge from this as a guy that can help us."
Johnson is on our radar, but let's pump the brakes until he starts producing on the field. It's nice to have a promising young player, but unless he steps up immediately, the Browns are a lock to lean more heavily on tight end Jordan Cameron than anyone at receiver to make up for Gordon's potential loss.