Around the League

Presented By

Browns already preparing for life without Josh Gordon

Even before Josh Gordon's Saturday arrest on suspicion of DWI, the Cleveland Browns were busy preparing for life without their troubled star wide receiver.

Browns general manager Ray Farmer said in a statement Saturday that the team was "disappointed" in Gordon. But the feelings are much stronger than that, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, who was told that "doubt and some resignation" has crept in as to whether Gordon will play another down for the team.

In fact, Cleveland's coaches and front office began rethinking their offense long before the wideout's latest off-the-field adventure.

The NFL has yet to weigh in on Gordon's potentially lengthy suspension for a positive drug test, but none of that changes the fact that the Browns are just two months away from traveling to Heinz Field to face the Steelers in the regular season opener.

The offense Cleveland runs that day will look remarkably different than last year's attack:

» One season after leading the NFL in pass attempts under Norv Turner, the Browns are a candidate to finish this year topping the league in rushing attempts under new coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The play-caller's zone-blocking scheme is a natural fit for free-agent addition Ben Tate and rookie Terrance West. Coach Mike Pettine has promised all spring that his team will employ a committee approach that might ultimately remind fans of the 1985 campaign that saw Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner both rumble for 1,000 yards on the ground. Third-down option Dion Lewis adds depth while undrafted rookie Isaiah Crowell brings tantalizing skills and game tape. Everyone will eat.

» A Gordon-free passing game all but assures a monster season from Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron. Around The League scribe Chris Wesseling completed an outstanding study on Cameron's film from last season, comparing him to a young Tony Gonzalez and "90 percent of Jimmy Graham -- without the benefit of Drew Brees." If the tight end stays healthy, a 1,000-yard campaign is a fair request.

» The Browns signed free-agent jitterbug Andrew Hawkins as a vast upgrade over last year's ghastly slot man Davone Bess. The former Bengals wideout was the star of offseason practices and will be relied on heavily as a starter who plays inside and out. The rest of the receiving corps is a whirlwind of aged veterans and inexperienced youngsters. I'm still not convinced Miles Austin or Nate Burleson will even make this roster. A healthy Travis Benjamin brings a deep threat, but the depth chart is otherwise a rash of enigmatic prospects and camp bodies.

» We've gotten this far without mentioning Johnny Manziel. While we still expect the rookie to open the season in Pittsburgh, the coaches believe in veteran Brian Hoyer and might ultimately opt for the more conservative choice under center to kick off the year.

» Depending on who starts at quarterback, Shanahan will be asked to formulate two playbooks like he did in Washington for Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. Still, the attack he unfurled this spring led The Plain Dealer to remark: "It's for Johnny Manziel."

» That's the beautiful mystery here: If Johnny Football's development propels him into the lineup by September, his playmaking ability brings a wild-card aspect to this attack. After all, a difference-making quarterback can cover many sins. Even without Gordon in the lineup, the Browns won't be easy to prepare for if Manziel can flip the switch out of the gate.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content