The Cleveland Browns were probably already one top-end wide receiver short of a full roster before training camp started, then came an avalanche of injuries.
Jakeem Grant has made his bones in the NFL as a return specialist, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season as a member of the Chicago Bears and later the Miami Dolphins. But after six professional seasons, Grant is ready for the perception of him to change into a wide receiver first and one of the game’s most dangerous return men second.
Grant spoke to Camryn Justice of WEWS on Sunday, August 7, and made his position on his positions clear.
“I always preach that I’m a receiver first before a returner, and I’m going to continue to preach that message,” Grant said. “And I’m going to continue to work on that until I get that opportunity to have that breakout season.”
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Grant Has Shot at Wide Receiver Snaps With Browns
The Browns released the first unofficial depth chart of the season Monday, upon which Grant is listed as a third-string wide receiver — meaning he is currently expected to be either the fifth or sixth wideout in the rotation. However, in three wide receiver sets, Grant’s current roster slot would bump him into second-string duties.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski indicated at the start of camp that Grant’s talent may merit some work in the regular offense.
“He’s an electric player. He’s fast,” Stefanski said on July 29, per Justice. “Certainly somebody who we would love to use as we get into the regular season.”
Furthermore, injuries have been a serious problem in the wide receiver room over the last three weeks, as David Bell, Anthony Schwartz, Amari Cooper and Michael Woods have all been hurt to varying degrees and forced to miss time. Each of those four players is also among the team’s top six wideouts alongside Grant, per Monday’s depth chart. Donovan Peoples-Jones, the rare Browns pass catcher who has not been hurt yet this preseason, rounds out the group.
Grant’s History as Receiver With Dolphins, Bears Shows Potential
Grant has received significant looks at the receiver position across his NFL tenure, but they have never been extensive.
His career highs in all categories, save for touchdowns, came with the Dolphins in 2020. Miami quarterbacks targeted Grant 54 times that season. He pulled down 36 catches for 373 yards and one touchdown, per Pro Football Reference. Grant has caught two passes for touchdowns three different times, though has never eclipsed that total in a single year. His career yards per reception mark is 11.4.
The Browns signed Grant to a three-year deal worth $10 million during the offseason to be their return man, after he averaged 11.9 yards per punt return (26 attempts) and 23.4 yards per kickoff return (23 attempts) while scoring one special teams touchdown on a punt return last season.
However, the franchise may have gotten a legitimate receiver out of the deal as well, which Cleveland special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is fine with.
“If the head coach wants to use him on offense, use him on offense,” Priefer said. “He’s way too talented to be standing next to me all the time.”