Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Or at least I’m about to pretend to know what you’re thinking.

Here’s what’s going through your mind right now, other than perhaps something about a hatred for your immediate superior at work. Are we really leading the first post on a shiny new week just days before training camps open with an item about a Cleveland Browns wide receiver?

Yes, yes we are. Because while much of the intrigue generated by training camp will rightfully surround top picks like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III and how they’re acclimating to being blitzed by players who are paid to hurt them, our focus during much of training camp will be on the legitimate position battles. Those are the storylines that often have the most impact on teams and influence their record at the end of the season.

Luck can struggle as much as he’d like during the preseason and, for that matter, throughout the regular season, and he’s not going anywhere. But what about Josh Gordon, the supplemental draft pick who’s high on upside, but low on every other intangible imaginable after being out of football since 2010? If he can adjust quickly, I don’t think I’m feeding you too much hyperbole by saying that at the very least with Trent Richardson in the backfield and Brandon Weeden hopefully being a significant improvement over Colt McCoy, Gordon could be the difference between mediocre and respectable for the Browns. And, dare I say it, in today’s NFL once a team reaches the almighty level of respectable, playoff contender isn’t too far off.

Tony Grossi from ESPN Cleveland is high on Gordon. So high, that he sees the former Baylor stud starting immediately:

At 6-3 and 225 pounds, Gordon is the most physically imposing. He has long arms, large hands and reputedly no history of drops. Travis Benjamin was one of the faster players in the draft and rivals CB Buster Skrine as the fastest on the team. Josh Cooper was QB Brandon Weeden’s second-favorite target at Oklahoma State and is experienced running crossing routes over the middle. The question is whether he can take the pounding of NFL safeties.

Part of the blame for the Browns’ lackluster passing offense in 2011 that averaged only 193.1 yards per game and 5.8 yards per pass attempt lied on McCoy’s arm and shoulder, and more generally on the offense’s slow adjustment to Pat Shurmur’s west coast system. Fair enough, but McCoy isn’t responsible for the drops, a category the Browns led the league in last year, and he also isn’t responsible for the lack of a deep threat and the inability of any Browns receiver to create separation downfield.

Without Gordon starting, the Browns would be left falling back to either Mohamed Massaquoi or Josh Cribbs to line up alongside Greg Little. The latter is far more suited to be a kick return specialist and featured on gadget plays, while the former has been ineffective, and has only 1,491 receiving yards over three years. Combine their yardage in 2011, and Massaquoi and Cribbs averaged just 29.9 yards per game. Together they didn’t equal the expected production from even a No. 2 receiver.

Hope and potential are two commodities being sold hard right now in Cleveland. While the apprehension is understandable given Gordon’s lack of football activity over the past two years and how far behind he is in learning the playbook, the risk in starting him immediately is minimal. If the experiment fails, he slides back down the depth chart again, and either Massaquoi or Cribbs replaces him, or even Benjamin.

But the reward is significant given his speed and downfield tools, and the raw athleticism that would be on the field when he’s in the same huddle as Richardson.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Michael Vick enjoys cornball clichés, and standing firmly behind his words that have fed the hungry narrative machine. [CSN Philly]
  • So hey, Bill O’Brien, how do you feel about taking that Penn State job now? [Pro Football Weekly]
  • There’s about a $1.5 million gap that needs to be closed between the Broncos and left tackle Ryan Clady. Since Clady is tasked with protecting a quarterback who’s had multiple neck surgeries over the past two years, that financial gap is rather important. Some may even say it’s crucial to the Broncos’ long-term success. [Denver Post]
  • Hey Redskins fans, are you looking for someone to crush your soul on a Monday morning? [Rick Snider]
  • Brandon Marshall spoke at the National Alliance on Mental Illness convention. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • After being charged for assault following an incident that involved a firearm, Lions cornerback Aaron Berry became the third Lions player to be arrested multiple times this offseason. He also brought the team’s arrest total to seven, and now Lions management may be forced to excercise its only truly effective recourse when dealing with a troublesome player, which is to no longer employ said player. [Kevin Seifert]
  • More on Berry in case you missed it over the weekend: he allegedly pointed a gun at three people. [Pride of Detroit]
  • With Kenny Britt suspended and/or injured to start the season, Jared Cook should become the focal point of the Titans’ passing offense. [Music City Miracles]
  • Brett Favre will coach a high school team this fall. And if the quarterback gets hurt, the speculation about his return to save a struggling team will begin immediately. [Total Packers]

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