BEREA, Ohio--Don't look now, but the faith that Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner put in Jordan Cameron is paying off.
Not only is Cameron playing well, he is on record-setting pace.
Obviously, it's only a third of the way through the season, but if Cameron keeps putting up the numbers he has been, he will break the Browns franchise record for receptions in a season. Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome had 89 receptions in 1983 and 1984, while Kellen Winslow did so in 2006 when Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator. If Cameron's numbers are prorated over a 16-game schedule, he would end up with over 100 receptions.
Cameron leads the Browns with 33 receptions for 396 yards and five touchdowns. He is tied for sixth in the NFL in receptions, second among tight ends to Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham, who has 37 receptions. If Cameron catches one pass against the Lions, he will pass Winslow (2006) and Newsome (1982) for the second-most receptions by a Browns player through the first six games of the season. He needs just two catches to pass Earnest Byner, who had the most (34) in 1986.
In the NFL today, many tight ends were former basketball players, including Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. However, Cameron wants to put his basketball career in the rear view mirror.
"I'm not a basketball player," Cameron said. "I'm a football player now. These tight ends nowadays have basketball backgrounds, but I don't want to be known as a basketball player."
When Chudzinski and Turner took over the Browns offense, they saw the potential in Cameron, who had just 26 receptions for 259 yards with one touchdown in his first two seasons. The Browns decided to let Ben Watson and Alex Smith leave via free agency. They didn't draft a tight end and signed Gary Barnidge and Kellen Davis as unrestricted free agents. Davis was cut at the end of training camp.
Cameron opened the season with nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. He followed that up with a five reception, 95-yard game against the Ravens. However, Cameron's coming out party was in the win over the Vikings when he tied the franchise record with three touchdowns, including the game winner from Brian Hoyer with just 51 seconds to play. Cameron had 10 catches for 91 yards and a score the next week against the Bengals.
"He's growing a great deal," Turner said Thursday. "He's getting better. He's becoming a good blocker, which is important to us. In talking about the run, he's done a better job in run blocking.
"He's a talented receiver and there are things that he does real well right now and there are things that we are working on to help him get better," he said. "Some ask are you worried that he only caught three balls (last week against the Bills)? He had three big catches, a big third down that got us going and a big catch in the fourth quarter. To me, it's about quality over quantity."
It was assumed the former basketball player at Brigham Young had the size (6-5, 245) and athleticism to be something special as a receiver. The question was his blocking ability.
"He's just understanding the game better," Chudzinski said. "He's understanding what we're trying to do, and I really think he's improving as a blocker. He had some key blocks on some of our runs from this past game that were big blocks against some pretty good-sized guys."
Cameron said he has spent a lot of time with tight ends coach Jon Embree working on his blocking.
"I've been really trying to get better, that's the main thing Coach Embree and I have been working on," Cameron said. "It's one of those things you just need time and reps to get better at it, and I think I've gotten better each game."
Former Browns GM Tom Heckert saw enough potential in Cameron while he played as a reserve at USC after transferring from BYU to draft him in the fourth-round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Cameron had just 16 catches for 126 yards in his college football career at USC.
Thus far, it looks like the faith in Cameron is well placed.
O-Line Wary of Lions Front: The Lions, like the Browns, have invested heavily in their front seven, including three number one draft choices up front in Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah.
"Every week is a big challenge," Shawn Lauvao said. "They have guys that are disruptive and that bring pressure."
However, Suh is the player that draws the most attention.
"They're all talented, but you have to account for Suh," he said. "I've played against him and he's a tremendous player."
Center Alex Mack agreed.
"(Suh's) a good player," Mack said. "I've played him in the preseason. Their whole defensive line is a good unit."
The Lions move Suh around, but Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz will most likely see the most of him.
"He's a really good athlete," Lauvao said. "I don't think you want anyone to take you out of your game. You just have to be good at what you're doing."
Mack said the line is up for the challenge.
"You look forward to good competition," Mack said. "You have to be prepared, excited and ready to play."
Injury Report: DL Billy Winn (quad) did not practice again on Friday and was ruled out.However, LB Jabaal Sheard (knee) and LB Quentin Groves (ankle) did and are listed as questionable for the game. RB Chris Ogbonnaya (concussion) practiced for the third day in a row and is probable. Ogbonnaya was a full participant on Wednesday through Friday. DL Desmond Bryant (illness), OL Joe Thomas (elbow) and DL John Hughes (knee) all practiced fully and are probable. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (knee) practiced Friday and is questionable for the game. Coach Jim Schwartz said Johnson will be a game time decision.
Chudzinski said that Sheard and Groves were "moving around pretty well."
Hoyer Surgery Set: Chudzinski said that QB Brian Hoye's scheduled surgery to repair his ACL is for Friday, Oct. 18. Chudzinski said he is hopeful to have Hoyer back in time for the OTAs in the spring.