CLEVELAND — On the Cleveland Browns’ first play from scrimmage Sunday, Josh Gordon streaked down the sidelines, leapt in the air, caught the Brandon Weeden pass and tapped both feet in bounds at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 5-yard line.
The 42-yard pass reception set up the Browns’ first touchdown, set the tone for his day and sent Gordon past the 1,000 yards receiving mark this season.
On a day in which there were plenty of ugliness on display by the Jaguars and, especially, the Browns, Gordon was the lone bright spot. He has become a ray of hope in another hopeless season at Cleveland’s sadness producing factory.
In consecutive weeks Gordon has rewrote the Browns’ record books. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers Nov. 24, Gordon caught 14 balls for 237 yards and a touchdown. Against the Jaguars seven days later, Gordon bested it with 10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns.
Gordon set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a two-game span (498 yards) and became the only wide receiver in league history to have two consecutive games with more than 200 yards receiving in each game. He is 30 yards away from breaking the Browns’ single-season record for most receiving yards in a season, set by Edwards in 2007.
“If this was an individual sport it would be a lot easier to accept,” Gordon said. “As a team we have to do better. We have to get over that hump.”
Gordon’s last two record-breaking performances have a common theme: both games the Browns lost.
“For us it’s all about winning,” Gordon said. “That’s what we came to do. We expect to win every Sunday. As a group we didn’t get it done today and that’s what matters most.”
The Browns will once again limp through December, play out their schedule and look ahead to a busy offseason where drafting a quarterback be priority No. 1.
Gordon, meanwhile, becomes a talent-rich piece to build an offense around.
Gordon became the first Browns wide receiver to surpass 1,000 yards receiving since Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow both reached that plateau in 2007. Since Edwards left, the Browns wide receivers have been one bust after another.
Here is a quick refresher of just some of the team’s past “go-to” wide receivers: Mohamed Massaquoi, Carlton Mitchell, Jordan Norwood, Brian Robiskie and Chansi Stuckey. Meanwhile, the Browns passed on Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft causing even more strife among Browns fans desperate for an elite pass catcher.
The group that was in Cleveland couldn’t get open. When they did, they dropped balls. For years this team was not only in dire need of a No. 1 wide receiver, but also just basic wide receiver talent.
Gordon not only passes the eye test of a No. 1 wide receiver, but he is putting up the gaudy numbers and making the spectacular plays.
The Browns trailed 25-21 with 4:09 left in the game when they took over on their own 5-yard-line. On first down, Weeden connected with Gordon, who shook free of a defender and out ran Jaguars’ defensive backs Dwayne Gratz and Johnathan Cyprien 95 yards for a touchdown. The Browns defense would cough up the three-point lead on the ensuing possession, but Gordon’s play was one of the more impressive performances this team has seen since 1999.
“He’s big, strong and he can run,” Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “There aren’t too many guys like him that have his skill set and play like him. We have the utmost respect for him and what he did. He is an unbelievable receiver.”
Gordon has 1,259 yards in just 10 games. Remember, he was suspended the first two games this season.
And there’s the rub.
Gordon has the potential to become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. It is right there for the taking. The last two games are evidence he can be one of the best in this league. The challenge will be if he can avoid trouble during the long NFL offseason. When he returned from his suspension last September, he said all the right things. He’s learned. He’s matured. He’s out to prove the naysayers wrong.
He’s also only 22 years old.
“Mentally, I’ve always thought I could do something like this,” Gordon said. “The biggest thing is for me to win.”
If Gordon continues to do what he is doing this season and staying out of trouble in the offseason, he will go a long way in helping this team win in the very near future.
The Browns appear to have their elite wide receiver. Now, it’s time to find that elite quarterback.