Hawkins poised to fill key WR role in Cleveland

There are many uncertainties surrounding the Cleveland Browns’ receiving corps, the greatest being who will step up and be the go-to-guy?

They need one because the team’s top receiver, Josh Gordon, is likely facing a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Speculation is that the team may rely heavily on free-agent acquisition Andrew Hawkins, who brings a wealth of talent after leaving Cincinnati

“Seeing a player’s talent is one of the strong points with this offense,” Hawkins said. “The coaches implement that into the game plan and it’s up to guys to make plays. I don’t know what my role is going to be, but I will continue to do things I have been since playing professional football, work hard and make plays.”

Whispers in training camp are that Hawkins could play a similar role as receiver Pierre Garcon played in Washington under current Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Hawkins is an impact player and has demonstrated his playmaking skills and versatility in two days of practice here. He’s lined up in the slot as well as flanked wide on the numbers.

The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Hawkins is quick, shifty and tough, with hands like flypaper. He’s deadly running after the catch and has the ability to take it the distance any time the ball is in his hands. He shows good awareness to find openings in coverage and nice body control to make adjustments to the ball. Hawkins’ leadership, professionalism and blue-collar mentality should have a positive effect on teammates.

Hawkins plans to take what he learned from the coaches in Cincinnati and instill them in his current teammates.

“Leaving Cincinnati was bittersweet,” he said. “I appreciate everything (receivers) Coach (James) Urban did for me while in Cincinnati. If it wasn’t for him standing up for me early on I might not have been in the NFL. I’m grateful to him and Coach (Marvin) Lewis. They taught me things relative to football that helped me in life. Both are stand-up guys and still family except for two times a year (laugh).”

Hawkins dealt with some injuries and missed some time on the field last season, but is expected to play a vital role with the Browns. They felt he was the kind of playmaker they needed and spent the coin, swiping him from their in-state rival with a front-loaded four-year deal worth $13.6 million, including $10.8 million over the first two years and $6.8 million guaranteed.

“The Browns did whatever they had to do to get me here and that was exciting,” Hawkins said. My current situation is very similar to when I first arrived in Cincinnati. That’s one thing to be optimistic about. I’m elated being in Cleveland and hope that everything continues to go the right way and I can help this football team.

“Our only expectation for the season is to work hard. If a team works hard it will make itself significantly better. That’s the one and only goal we have right now and we’ll let time take care of the rest.”

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