I will never forget the first time I noticed Cleveland Browns receiver Travis Benjamin in an NFL game. The Browns were playing the Baltimore Ravens on a rainy night in 2012, Benjamin's rookie season. This was when the Ravens still had future Hall of Famer Ed Reed patrolling the back end of their defense, and few quarterbacks were willing to push the ball down the field.
Benjamin was soooo friggin fast that you could almost see the surprise on the faces of the Ravens secondary as he ran right by them play after play after play. It got to the point where dudes were lining up 20 yards off him before the snap. But it didn't matter because even with a head start, Benjamin was still dusting their asses. And that includes him running by Reed a few times.
Unfortunately, as has been the case for most of his career, Benjamin's quarterback couldn't get the ball to him with any accuracy, so while he was open damn near all night, he ended up catching just two passes, neither of them for a touchdown or even a big gain.
Whether it was Brandon Weeden in 2012 or Brian Hoyer over the next two years, Benjamin has mostly been quiet in the first three years of his career because his quarterbacks were hot garbage.
I'll admit that Benjamin is not the most, um, courageous receiver you will ever see. He's not about that "going across the middle and extending his arms to catch the ball" life. At the same time, however, who the fuck would want to send a dude with his kind of wheels across the middle a lot anyway? Benjamin is a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. He was put on this earth to chew bubble gum and take the top off of defenses, and I hear he's fresh out of Juicy Fruit.
Now, the Browns have a quarterback who can actually get him the damn ball and shit is about to get real. I know this because their new starter, Josh McCown, was the quarterback for my Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. If there was one thing McCown did well in 2014 -- and there weren't many things he did well -- it was pushing the ball down the field to the wide receivers. That means for the first time in his career, Benjamin is going to have a guy who can consistently get him the ball when he gets a step or three on his defender.
McCown is also an athletic guy, so I'm betting we see a few instances where the pocket breaks down, McCown avoids the rush and slings it downfield to a waiting Benjamin who already left his guy in the dust. Oh, it's gonna happen. Write it down, take a picture, y'all know the rest.
Finally, Browns fans will get to see what kind of downfield threat Benjamin really is. I don't think he will start over Andrew Hawkins or Brian Hartline, but he won't need to.
Provided he stays healthy, Benjamin will more than double his career high of 18 catches, easily. With McCown pulling the trigger, or even an apparently rejuvenated Johnny Manziel, Benjamin will finally become the deep threat he was drafted to be and opposing defenses had better beware.