I’ll be the first to admit I wrote off wideout Travis Benjamin coming into this season.
The Cleveland Browns’ 2012 draft pick possessed lightning speed, but appeared to have lost some of it after a 2013 ACL tear. His impact the following year was minimal, and the team’s hopes to continue utilizing him as a punt return specialist were dashed when fumbles became a significant issue.
So, when asked who I thought could potentially be cut this training camp, I thought Benjamin would be a likely candidate. Fact is, there are a lot of players vying for a roster spot at receiver this offseason, and Benjamin’s declining skills didn’t help matters for him.
Which is why I’m stunned to hear that, not only is Benjamin having a phenomenal camp, he’s essentially been the best wideout on the team so far. And, if he can keep this up, he might actually be an incredibly viable weapon on an offense which needs one now more than ever.
Though he denies it, Benjamin sure appeared to have some confidence issues last season. An ACL tear is a frightening injury for anyone to endure. Since it occurred during a punt return, it was no surprise Benjamin showed a lot more tentativeness in the return game in 2014. As a result, he was hardly a threat in this department, quickly becoming more and more underutilized.
With this season being a contract year for Benjamin, it wasn’t lofty to assume it would be his final one with the Browns. A rough camp might’ve even resulted in his being cut as a result of the multitude of wideouts trying out for the team.
Well, he apparently was aware of all this, and is having the camp of his life.
Rarely – if ever – has anyone made note of even a dropped pass by Benjamin since camp started. He’s been gaining rave reviews at a daily basis so far, and word is his trademark speed has returned with a vengeance. Despite his size – 5’10”, 175 lbs – not being ideal for a receiver, he’s still shown an ability to fight off opposing corners for 50/50 balls.
Even better, his chemistry with starting quarterback Josh McCown is more than apparent. The two have definitely developed an on-field rapport, seen on display in last week’s preseason game when McCown bought himself some time scrambling in the red zone before finding an open Benjamin for an early-game touchdown.
All of this is huge because, frankly, Cleveland’s wideouts aren’t exactly going to scare anyone on paper.
Dwayne Bowe, while a decent signing, has been hurt for most of camp. Brian Hartline is good, but not really a deep threat. Terrelle Pryor is still unproven and might not make the final roster. Other receivers such as Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel have talent, but lack height.
So, if any wideout is able to truly stand out for the Browns, it’d be a much-welcomed occurrence. Right now, it looks like Benjamin might be doing just that.
Renewed confidence, regained speed and the motivation of succeeding during a contract year can all factor in to what could become a solid season for Benjamin. His excellent camp performance has already garnered praise from coaches, who’ll likely look to give him a lot of opportunities in the regular season to prove this success can carry over.
If Benjamin can cash in on this, not only will it benefit the Browns greatly, it’ll ensure he also cashes in on a big contract at season’s end, as well.