BEREA — The youngest player on the Cleveland Browns might be the team’s biggest playmaker.
Josh Gordon celebrated his 21st birthday in April. Since then, Gordon’s life has been a whirlwind.
After sitting out a season of college football last Utah for transferring from Baylor, he was contemplating to play college football again or enter the NFL Supplemental Draft.
He chose the latter and the Browns selected him in the second-round of the Supplemental Draft just before training camp began in July. The Browns forfeited their second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft to obtain him this year. Many felt it was a big gamble, especially since Gordon had been in trouble for off-field issues.
“For being out of football for a year and coming to the NFL it was a huge difference for me,” Gordon said. “I feel I’m where I’m supposed to be and I’m looking forward to the rest of this year and next year.”
However, the move has been paying dividends thus far for the Browns.
On Sunday, Gordon had his biggest game thus far in the NFL as he caught six passes for 116 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Gordon already leads all the NFL in receiving yardage among rookie receivers.
He has more receptions over 20 yards than any player on the Browns and is one of the highest in the NFL. On the season, Gordon has 34 receptions for 646 yards (19.0 avg.), including five touchdowns. Gordon is 19th, overall, in yardage among AFC receivers and is the leading rookie in that department. He is just one reception behind Greg Little, who has 35 receptions for 408 yards and two touchdowns.
Pat Shurmur likes the progress that Gordon has made.
“He’s big, he’s fast and he can catch,” Shurmur said. “Let’s assume he was born with that, but the rest has to be developed.”
Shurmur said Gordon has been learning on the fly since he arrived because he didn’t have the benefit of the OTAs and the off-season program.
“I think it’s all running parallel for him,” Shurmur said. “He came here not in shape. Not knowing the offense, the quarterback and not knowing what a real grind this is for a player that wants to make an impact.
Gordon made some plays early in the season that displayed his big play ability, but a big drop in the end zone on a potential game-winning touchdown against the Colts was one fans remember. However, Gordon didn’t let it faze him and hasn’t had a documented dropped ball since.
“When you have a situation (drop) like that, you can’t let it linger too long,” Gordon said. “You can’t dwell on things in the past or it will affect you. I just try to move on.”
Shurmur said Gordon works very hard to continue to improve.
“I think every field opportunity he has had in practice, he is working to try and improve,” Shurmur said. “Time will tell but I’m impressed with the way he has played. When you get a guy who can get to the end zone, it makes defense wonder how to stop him.”
Shurmur said the way he stretches the field cannot be understated.
“With him, he kept working and it’s important to have guys who can make plays in chunks,” Shurmur said. “I don’t think we’ve had too many guys around here (in the past) that could do that.”
Gordon says he and Little complement each other well.
“I think defenses are worried about me going over the top, so they leave the middle open,” he said. “It allows opens up the field for us.”
Gordon is excited the direction the Browns are heading and thinks the future is bright.
“I think our future is bright here in Cleveland,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys and have some veterans to show us the ropes, but I feel we have a lot to look forward to.”
The Future: Shurmur said that he thinks the Browns have a bright future. However, he wouldn’t talk about his future that could be linked to the last four games.
“I believe this is the foundation of something that can be pretty good,” he said. “As far as me personally, what more can they say about me? That’s where the thick skin comes in.
“I’m excited about where we’re going,” Shurmur said. “The (team) understands the message and mentally and physically going over and over can be tiring.”
Recently, Jimmy Haslam said that he feels the Browns are heading in the right direction and Shurmur was asked if he felt that was a positive. However, he said his focus is playing the Chiefs.
“It’s always good to hear good things,” he said. “I do know this and what’s important for me-- and it’s narrow minded-- but that is the next game. That’s what I can control.”
Big Drive: The Browns haven’t had as big a drive as they did when they marched 94 yards and consumed 6:04 to play in the fourth quarter to take a 20-10 lead with 3:27 to play.
“The last 94 yards drive was great,” Shurmur said. “Brandon was 5-of-6 and that was an important thing. I’m happy our guys found a way to win. For the way to find a win, our guys found a way. The challenge now is to get back to the process.”
Shurmur thinks the young offense can build on that drive.
“Anytime you do something once then you become confident to do it again,” he said. “You get beyond it by doing it. Hopefully, we can repeat it as we go on.”
Shurmur was asked if he felt the Browns have turned the corner.
“I don’t know about turning the corner but what I do know is we beat a quality opponent last week at home and another good opponent on the road,” he said. “When you’re working with young players. I think they grew up a bit. We’re growing. We’re growing.”
Weeden Improves: Shurmur said that he continues to see QB Brandon Weeden improve.
“I think he made some strides yesterday,” he said. “He made some good throws on third down with people in his face and taking shots.”
On the season, Weeden is 247-of-433 for 2,820 yards. He has completed 57 percent of his passes and has 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His rating is 72.3. He is tied with rookie Ryan Tannehill in rating. Weeden has also thrown for three 300-yard games.
By the Numbers: The Browns are 27th in offense (25th rush, 20 pass), while they are 23rd in defense (17th rush, 23rd pass).
Sheldon Play: CB Sheldon Brown had several big plays for the Browns against the Raiders. None were more important that an interception of QB Carson Palmer when the Raiders were driving to either tie or take the lead. The Browns drove 94 yards for a touchdown to seal the win after the interception.
“Sheldon, for the most part played extremely well,” Shurmur said. “When you limit scoring in the meat of the game, that’s the most important thing.
“He’s made impact plays for us,” he said. “He gets opportunities and has made three interceptions and all have resulted in points for us. He’s kind of a steady guy, what you tend to get from a veteran player. Behind all that, Sheldon is a true pro.”