Friday, March 29, 2013
Eight in the Box: WR status check
By Jamison Hensley
How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?
Baltimore Ravens: This is the most glaring need on offense. The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin, their leading receiver for the past three seasons, and have yet to replace him. Torrey Smith is the only remaining wide receiver on the Ravens who caught more than 30 passes last season. Jacoby Jones can stretch the field, but he's considered more of a returner than a receiver. Owner Steve Biciotti recently said a committee is going to fill the void. The options -- Tandon Doss, David Reed, Deonte Thompson, and Tommy Streeter -- have totaled 17 career receptions and one touchdown. The lack of proven talent has to be a concern. The Ravens could also split out tight end Dennis Pitta and use him more in a wideout role. It wouldn't be surprising to see Baltimore take a wide receiver early in the draft.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green is the best receiver in the division and is among the top five in the NFL. He has 162 catches in his first two seasons, which is the second-most in NFL history. The supporting cast looks promising, although no one has established himself in the league. Only one other wide receiver (Andrew Hawkins) had more than 18 receptions last season. Mohamed Sanu, a third-round pick from a year ago, is expected to become the team's No. 2 receiver. Coach Marvin Lewis said Sanu is ahead of where Chad Johnson was after his rookie season. The Bengals believe Marvin Jones, a fifth-round pick last season, has good upside. Whether the Bengals use an early draft pick on a wide receiver will show their level of confidence in this young group.
Cleveland Browns: For a second straight year, the Browns chose not to sign a free-agent wide receiver even though they have a need and the salary-cap room to do so. The Browns are set with two young, yet inconsistent, starters in Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Gordon, a supplemental second-round pick last year, showed flashes as being a No. 1 receiver. He brought back the big play to the Browns' passing attack, averaging 16.1 yards per catch. Gordon, who had seven games in which he caught two or fewer passes, can't disappear like he did at times last season. Little has the potential to be the complementary No. 2 target if he can cut down on his drops. Travis Benjamin, the fast but undersized work in progress, is the No. 3 receiver by default. After not re-signing Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs, the Browns have to draft at least one receiver to provide depth. The problem is, Cleveland has just one of the first 67 picks in the draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: As expected, the Steelers let Mike Wallace, their leading receiver for the past three seasons, leave in free agency. Pittsburgh could have a predicament if Emmanuel Sanders, who is expected to replace Wallace, goes to the Patriots. The deadline is April 19 for the Patriots to extend an offer to Sanders, a restricted free agent. Antonio Brown has to step up and become the No. 1 target after 135 catches the past two seasons. He's a good fit in the short passing game favored by offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Right now, the No. 3 receiver is either Jerricho Cotchery or Plaxico Burress. The Steelers may have to draft a wide receiver in either the first or second round for the first time since 2008. Pittsburgh's depth has been depleted at this position. It was only two years ago when the Steelers went into the season with Brown and Sanders as their backup wideouts.