The Browns are hoping life without wide receiver Josh Gordon won’t be as arduous as many outsiders believe it will be.

Gordon will sit out the first two regular-season games as he serves a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He has blamed prescription cough medicine that contained codeine for triggering a failed drug test in February.

No matter the reason the Browns will be without Gordon their No. 1 wide receiver Sunday when they host the Miami Dolphins in the opener. Gordon has been attending meetings and working out at the team’s headquarters this week but he’s prohibited from practicing until after the second game.

“I think with Josh down obviously it’s a loss” starting wide receiver Greg Little said Thursday before practice. “But we have guys that are talented and can come in and make those same plays.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski named Davone Bess and Travis Benjamin “co-starters” in Gordon’s absence because they’re both expected to receive significant playing time against the Dolphins. The Browns acquired Bess during the draft April via a trade with the Dolphins and Benjamin was a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft.

Bess is a reliable experienced slot receiver and Benjamin is the Browns’ fastest offensive player. Both expect to move around playing in the slot and on the outside.

However neither is a proven deep threat like Gordon a second-round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft who caught 50 passes for a team-high 805 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. Gordon averaged 46 yards on his touchdown receptions which suggests he’s an ideal weapon for the vertical downfield passing attack Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are determined to showcase.
“You think about [Gordon’s absence] a lot but there’s only so much you can do” Turner said. “So we have a plan and we’ve worked it hard. This league is a game of big plays offensively. If you make big plays you’re going to have more production and Josh is a guy who’s capable of making big plays. So if we’re going to make those we’re going to have to get them from someone else.”

The only options in the receiving corps are Little Bess Benjamin and Josh Cooper who’s entering his second NFL season. The Browns and Dolphins are among four teams that kept only four receivers on their active roster after making cuts this past weekend.
“We’ll be OK” Chudzinski said. “I have done it before and we can handle that. We can manage that.”

Another concern is the lack of size in the receiving corps when the 6-foot-3 225-pound Gordon is removed from the equation. Little’s last name is an oxymoron because he’s 6-2 and 220 pounds but Bess (5-10 195) Benjamin (5-10 175) and Cooper (5-10 190) are tiny by NFL standards.