We are now at less than a month until the Cleveland Browns kick-off their 2021 training camp. Currently, players are likely spending time with family and training before the upcoming season opens up. As it will be the first season with 17 games, this month off is as important as ever.
In the first part of a series where we take a look at some potential position group battles, we are taking a look at the third wide receiver position. The teams top two wideouts for at least one more year are no secret, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Each player makes more than the rest of the group combined in terms of money, now the Browns just hope they can play up to that dollar amount.
It will be interesting to see how the third wideout position shakes out. The Browns have a couple of nice options. It seems to be a two-man race early as Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones have both showed ability in the past. Their is talent past the third spot on the depth chart, but Anthony Schwartz or KhaDarel Hodge don’t seem to be in play for a major role yet.
Higgins has the upper hand naturally due to his tenure with the Browns. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Higgins has spent five years with the Browns. Heading into his sixth year and coming off his best pro year yet where he put up 599 yards at 16.2 yards per a reception. Higgins was the guy for Cleveland last year when Odell Beckham Jr. went down to injury - he stepped up.
In terms of making yourself some money this could be the season that Higgins does it. With Odell Beckham Jr. back on the field adding speed, Higgins should get open more. Players like Beckham or even the rookie, Schwartz bring speed to the field that stretches the defense and will allow players who don’t rely on speed to have more operating room. If Higgins is indeed the third receiver he could put up solid numbers, 700 yards wouldn’t be surprising from the Colorado State product. After all, Higgins has been a security blanket at times for Baker Mayfield and they have had undeniable chemistry.
It must be noted that the difference between the third receiver on this team and the fourth receiver could be minimal. Kevin Stefanski’s offense and with the play of Mayfield, everyone is going to get ample touches in some capacity.
Taking a look at Donovan Peoples-Jones he definitely stood out with over 21 yards per reception. As a rookie out of Michigan, Peoples-Jones had 304 receiving yards and returned 18 punts. In terms of total production, not a whole lot, but Peoples-Jones did well with limited opportunity. When looking back on his rookie year the play that will always come to mind for people will be his game winning touchdown catch against the Cincinnati Bengals. Plays like that made the future exciting for Peoples-Jones, seeing what he can do in a larger role.
His first seven or so weeks during his rookie year, Peoples-Jones did nothing. Questions arose about his ability and if he would make it. As the season went on number 11 was able to work his way onto the field and made plays while our there. 92 yards on a pair of catches against the Tennessee Titans was the best overall game for him as a rookie. Big play ability is there for Peoples-Jones, something the Browns relied on from him as a rookie, as surprising as it was.
Whether Peoples-Jones is the team’s third or fourth wide receiver he is going to have an important role on this team. There are instances where he could very well be one of the team’s top two receivers in a couple years, depending what the Browns decide on for a couple of big contracts. Overall, the growth of Peoples-Jones from year one to year two is something to watch. It is no secret that Peoples-Jones offers big play ability that Higgins just doesn’t.
Wide receiver is just one of at least three position group battles that will be going on at the Browns training camp. One of the more intriguing ones that could be interchangeable. Each of these players offer different positives for the offense.