As the offseason progresses more and more, the reality begins to set in day-by-day that the Browns must go all of next season, or at least the majority, without star wide receiver Josh Gordon. Therefore, someone (Dear God someone), must step up and at least make his absence less noticeable, because no one player will completely make-up his stats.
But, the $100 million question that fans, the media and probably the coaches are wondering, is who will be that guy?
Will it be Miles Austin, the veteran and long-time Dallas Cowboy? Will it be unproven but highly prized Andrew Hawkins? Maybe it’s oft-injured but talented Nate Burleson.
The beauty and the horror of this year’s roster is that there’s almost an equal chance it could be any one of those players. Yet maybe the most important receiver the Browns have (outside of Gordon) is Anthony Armstrong, a guy with less than 1,000 receiving yards for his career.
The reason I say this is because of the current Browns’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Most recently, he was the OC with the Washington Redskins. While Armstrong has only 36 receiving yards since the 2010 season, his one breakout season came when he played in the system of none other than Shanahan.
During that season, Armstrong made 44 receptions for 871 yards and three touchdowns. Since, he has only 10 receptions for the previously mentioned 36 yards.
The key for Armstrong though is not the amount of catches, but what he is able to do with the ball before and after. One thing that makes Armstrong flexible is the fact that he doesn’t demand a lot of targets. When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a playmaker.
During his three seasons in the NFL, Armstrong only has 54 receptions, but has almost 1,000 yards because of his ridiculous YPC average, which currently stands at a whopping 18.3 yards per game. During his best season, in 2010, his average was even better, as he averaged 19.8 ypc, which was good for third in the NFL behind notable speedsters Desean Jackson and Mike Wallace. He’s a deep threat that can really extend the field vertically (thanks in large part to a 4.38 40-yard dash) and even when he’s not making catches, he opens up the field for other guys, especially a slot receiver such as Hawkins.
With that being said, Armstrong is known for being invisible at times, actually for most of his career, and that’s the evident risk with him. If he is unable to find any sort of success early, it could be a another train wreck of a season for him, making him another speedster down the sideline who can’t get the ball in his hands.
With all that being said, I say look for Armstrong to be much more involved in the offensive game plan than many people expect. Shanahan knows what he can do with the ball in his hands, and therefore can design more plays to get him the ball in open space, which in turn opens up the offense for the wide out group as a whole, as they try to move on with the expectation that Gordon will not be apart of the plan on Sundays.