BEREA — The receiving corps has been the source of incredible frustration for the Browns in the last few years.
Former general manager Ray Farmer largely ignored the position. His replacement, former head of football operations Sashi Brown, realized its importance but brought in the wrong guys, headlined by free agent bust Kenny Britt.
Throughout the struggles, Josh Gordon was usually suspended.
He’s back and declared the problem at the position solved.
And then some.
“I think we’re the best receiving corps in the league, in my opinion, already just based off of talent alone,” Gordon said Tuesday at the start of the three-day mandatory minicamp. “So you put in the playbook and some guys that are hungry enough to go do it, and hopefully we go out there and prove that.
“That’s just my opinion, but we’re not short on talent at the wide receiver position at all.”
The statement would’ve been ridiculous eight months ago. Nine receivers totaled 134 catches for 1,801 yards and seven touchdowns in the winless 2017 season, including 18 for 335 and one from Gordon in five games to finish the season after returning from an indefinite suspension.
For comparison’s sake, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown had 101 catches for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns.
But this year Gordon, an All-Pro in 2013, is nearing peak physical condition and expects to surpass anything he’s done in the past. He’s joined by three-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry, who was acquired from the Dolphins in a March trade. He has 400 catches in four years, including a league-leading 112 last season.
Landry was asked about Gordon’s proclamation.
“He ain’t lying,” said Landry, who earlier in the offseason declared himself the best receiver in the league.
Gordon called Landry “a natural fit for us” and said his addition will benefit Gordon.
“Tremendously. It definitely does make a huge difference as far as competition level within the same group of guys, making sure we’re stepping up every rep and every play when we’re out there,” Gordon said. “I think we’re just competitive by nature, which makes it that much better for me, and I think it does the same for him, but his football IQ, his awareness of the game and him knowing where he’s supposed to be at, it’s a benefit for not only me but the entire offense.”
Coach Hue Jackson wasn’t ready to make any sweeping statements but couldn’t hide his joy as he watched Landry make tough catches look easy, including a one-hander in the end zone, and Gordon show the speed and explosion not meant for a man 6-foot-3, 225 pounds.
“Jarvis Landry has been put on our team, who is one of the top players in pro football. Then there is Josh who is here, in the offseason program and practicing every day. That right there just uplifts the talent level in that room,” Jackson said. “I do not want to compare to last year. I am just excited about the group we have. They have a chance, if they work and get into great shape.
“In order to be great, you have to do it on game day — week in and week out. If they do that, then we will talk about that at another time.”
Corey Coleman, the No. 15 pick in 2016, joins Gordon and Landry, along with rookie fourth-rounder Antonio Callaway, holdovers Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins and free agent signee Jeff Janis.
“We are just really showing a lot of flashes,” Landry said. “I think the capability of what we all can do is endless.”
Of course, a receiving corps can’t thrive without competent quarterback play, and Gordon sees a significant upgrade there, as well. The Browns traded for Taylor, then drafted Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 pick.
“The most talented quarterbacks I’ve seen come through here — by far,” Gordon said. “It’s going to be an interesting thing to watch the quarterback battle go on, but you’ve got a proven guy in Tyrod, we’ve got a young, talented guy in Baker. I don’t see how it can go wrong, really.”