BEREA — Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress admitted he didn’t know who Josh Gordon was soon after he was selected in the NFL Supplemental draft this summer.
“I never saw a snap on him,” Childress said smiling. “I got off a cruise ship and somebody said we signed Josh Gordon and I said ‘Who’s Josh Gordon?’”.
You can bet Childress knows him now after being a key component in the Browns passing attack the past two games. Gordon has 12 receptions for 274 yards with three touchdowns on the season. His 22.8 average per reception leads the team.
Last week, Gordon had three receptions for 99 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown reception. Against the Giants the previous game, Gordon had two receptions for 82 yards, including touchdowns of 62- and -20 yards.
Childress likes the fact that defenses have to honor the deep threat the Browns haven’t had in a long time.
“He has the deep strike ability and the fact that he has done it twice helps,” Childress said. “It helps to take the top off of the defense and make them play off the line.”
Childress has seen steady progress in Gordon.
“I think he’s played a lot better and has improved in a lot of areas,” he said. “I think teams will be mindful where he’s at. They will honor him and that’s a good thing.”
Pat Shurmur said that Gordon is getting more consistency in his play.
“Two games ago he played well and made plays and was very productive,” Shurmur said. “Once you do it once you want to see consistency and I think he continued his progress. He made plays against the Bengals as well as you look at his progress and here’s a young man playing as a rookie like a lot of the guys that we have that did not have an off-season, so you’re starting to see a certain amount of work starting to take shape.
“I think he’ll only continue to get better,” he said. “In my opinion, the lights coming on and when you practice hard and then you can have success in the game then they start to say this works, so hopefully that will continue.”
Gordon downplayed his deep threat ability.
“It’s really just scheming,” Gordon said. “We scheme in practice and we work on it. If we see a mismatch we try and take advantage of it. In that case it was definitely happening and we took advantage of it.”
Shurmur said that Gordon knows he has to continue to work on his game.
“He has size, No.1,” he said. “He can run which is the threat that most defenses worry about getting behind them. He can catch the football in traffic. He continues to learn against the bump-and-run (coverage) and he needs to continue to learn to beat a guy off the line.”
The Browns are about as healthy as they’ve been at the wide receiver since the start of the season. Jordan Norwood was placed on injured reserve, but Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin are expected to be back after missing games with hamstring injuries. Josh Cooper was elevated from the practice squad and had two receptions against the Bengals and is expected to continue to be in the mix.
However, Greg Little was absent from practice Thursday during the time open to the media and he wasn’t on the injury report on Wednesday. It is unknown why he missed practice, whether illness, injury or for personal reasons.
Either way, Gordon has worked his way into the rotation even though he’s listed as the backup to Little and has started three games.
“We’ve had a different lineup at receiver as we’ve gone along,” Shurmur said. “If you’re a guy who thinks you’re a starter and see the backup or a role player out there, some of what we’re talking about is if the young guy steps up and does well, it creates competition and that’s a good thing.”
Shurmur is pleased with the progress that Gordon has made after not playing football in college last season and not joining the Browns off-season program until after the Supplemental Draft in June.
“Josh is one of our guys and I think I’m excited to see him continue to improve,” Shurmur said. “I don’t remember exactly where we were talking about this, but he did not have the benefit of an offseason. So, I was telling him, I said ‘The first five weeks was your offseason and it’s time to get it going even faster than what you’re doing.’ He has had a little bit of a taste of success and much like I talked to the team about being greedy about that feeling that you get when you win, he needs to be greedy about that feeling you get when you succeed and have production. That’s what we’re working on.”
Shurmur said he doesn’t think his recent success will cause Gordon to not continue to work hard.
“I’ve seen it happen before and that’s why we guard against it.”
Childress is anxious to have Massaquoi and Benjamin back and thinks it can only be a positive.
“The more the merrier,” Childress said. “I think the more playmakers you have, the better competition there is.”
TRich Bullet Proof?: Shurmur gave no new indication of if Richardson came out of Wednesday’s practice unscathed. He was a limited participant in practice and listed as questionable.
“He will be out there (at practice),” Shurmur said.
He practiced during the time open to the media on Thursday.
Shurmur said Richardson wants to play, but Shurmur will see how the flow of the game is going.
“I think he wants to play and I think you’ve seen us play multiple backs like we did the other day,” Shurmur said. “He’s our starting running back and ideally, you’d like to see him the majority of the snaps. We’ll get the flow of the game and I trust those other guys to come in and be productive.”
Richardson will wear a type of flak jacket to protect his ribs, but Shurmur said that shouldn’t affect him.
“This is space age design stuff,” Shurmur said. “He’s wearing something that is bullet proof. He told me he thought he already was. They make things very well now.”
Bounce Back Buster: After being tested and beaten against the Giants in the previous week, CB Buster Skrine came back to lead the Browns in tackles against the Bengals with 10. Due to the injury to DB Dimitri Patterson, Skrine had to play in the slot.
“He’s a very resilient guy,” Shurmur said. “He challenges and is very tough and he keeps going. I thought he challenged pretty well (in the slot). He was on A.J. (Green) on Joe’s (Haden) interception. He practices fast. He plays fast. He’s into it and those are reasons why he continues to improve. Guys who are into it and continue to challenge will get better.”
Johnson’s Role: With the return of rookie LB James-Michael Johnson and the injury status of LB Scott Fujita, the Browns are counting on Johnson to continue to be a key player in the defense.
“I think he had a good showing,” Shurmur said. “It was really his first scrimmage time. I think some of the things that showed up in the preseason showed up in his play.”
Johnson started his first NFL game in place of Fujita at strong side linebacker against the Bengals and had two tackles. He missed the first four games of the season with an oblique/rib injury suffered in the final preseason game.
“JMJ did a nice job,” defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “It was good t o see.”
Jauron said Fujita provided a lot of leadership and helped call some of the defensive signals.
“Scott makes some of the calls and so it gives D’Qwell a little breathing room. We definitely lose a great deal of on field leadership when he’s not out there.”
Forgotten Man: There has not been many questions as of late about rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz and according to Shurmur, that’s a good thing.
“It’s kind of like a car,” Shurmur said. “You don’t think much about it if you don’t have trouble with it. I see improvement in his run blocking and his pass blocking. He’s a smart guy.”
Schwartz has taken every snap in all six games thus far this season. The offensive line has only given up three sacks in the past three games.
Injury Update: LB Scott Fujita (shoulder/neck) and DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle) did not practice Thursday and are doubtful. WR Travis Benjamin (hamstring), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), DB Tashaun Gipson (knee), OL Jason Pinkston (illness), RB Trent Richardson (chest/rib), DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf), DB Ray Ventrone (hand/calf), DB T.J. Ward (hand) and LB Christian Yount (shoulder) are questionable after limited participation in practice. DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/foot) and QB Brandon Weeden (foot) are probable and fully participated in practice. DL Phil Taylor was still not practicing even though he’s eligible to come off the PUP list.
WR Greg Little was not at practice Wednesday. He was sent home with flu-like symptoms.
Notable injuries for the Colts were LB Dwight Freeney (ankle) and LB Robert Mathis (knee) are listed as doubtful as were DE Cory Redding (knee), DE Fili Moala (knee) and NT Martin Tevaseu (ankle). RB Donald Brown (knee) is also doubtful.
Haden’s Legs: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said that CB Joe Haden tired by the end of the game in his first action since the opener against the Eagles after serving a four-game suspension.
“He lost his legs at the end and I wished I would’ve recognized that,” Jauron said referring to the long touchdown pass Haden was beaten by WR A.J. Green. “It’s too bad that (Green) caught that long one on him because he played very well. It was great to have him back.”
Jauron said he expects Haden to much better in his endurance this week.
“I think he should be fine.”