Receivers awaiting cuts in light of Gordon suspension
CLEVELAND – The final cuts to the receiving corps will be critically important in the aftermath of Josh Gordon’s suspension.
Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin are the only certainties, even though Austin has been quiet in the preseason. Beyond that, it’s a guessing game what coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will do when cuts are made Saturday.
A collection of players are vying for what will probably be five roster spots – Nate Burleson, Charles Johnson, Willie Snead, Marlon Moore and Taylor Gabriel. Burleson has the most experience with 11 years, but he missed much of camp and the first two preseason games with an injury.
The problem facing Pettine and Shanahan is an overall lack of size, with the exception of Burleson (6-0) and Johnson (6-2). It might not be feasible to carry Gabriel (5-8), Benjamin (5-10) and Hawkins (5-7) on the roster.
Gabriel received repetitions with the first team Thursday against the Chicago Bears, which might indicate he has a chance to stick. Pettine singled out Gabriel when asked which of the young receivers has looked good.
It’s more likely that Gabriel will be waived and then re-signed to the 10-man practice squad. Burleson probably stays because of a need for size and experience.
ON THE BUBBLE: Defensive lineman Billy Winn could be a casualty of the final cuts. He didn’t practice much in camp and hasn’t shown much in limited time in game action. If six defensive linemen are kept, the logical picks are Armonty Bryant, Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Desmond Bryant, who’s coming back from wrist surgery.
A BIT IFFY: Desmond Bryant was at press level for the game. Bryant had surgery close to two weeks ago and has yet to return to practice. He’d like to be ready for the season opener Sept. 7, but that might not happen.
GET BACK SOON: Those might be the words Pettine utters when he sees cornerbacks Joe Haden and Buster Skrine on the sideline resting injuries. The replacements for the two players – rookie Justin Gilbert and second-year veteran Leon McFadden – have been awful. McFadden has been whistled numerous times for interference and holding. Gilbert was victimized regularly last week against the St. Louis Rams and struggled again against the Bears.
Gilbert’s play casts doubts on general manager Ray Farmer’s draft calls. He passed up talented receivers in making the call on Gilbert, who was widely considered the best cornerback in the draft. Gilbert’s tackling skills, which were questioned coming out of Oklahoma State, appear weak. He missed a tackle against the Rams that resulted in a touchdown, and he failed to bring down Santonio Holmes of the Bears on a touchdown pass.
INJURY REPORT: Offensive lineman Nick McDonald was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. Offensive lineman Paul McQuistan left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
A DAY OFF: Among the few players who didn’t suit up for the Browns were Skrine, Haden, cornerback Pierre Desir, cornerback Isaiah Trufant, linebacker Eric Martin and Bryant.
Bears coach Marc Trestman rested all the starters. Third-string quarterback David Fales got a rare start.
LINEUP CHANGES: Hawkins started in place of Gordon, who learned Wednesday that his appeal on a suspension had been denied.