Published October 19, 2012
BEREA, Ohio – Slightly sunburned and plenty relaxed from a summer excursion through the Caribbean with his wife, offensive coordinator Brad Childress returned home to learn the Browns had a new player.
While Childress was chilling, Cleveland selected wide receiver Josh Gordon in the NFL's supplemental draft.
The name didn't ring a bell.
"I got off a cruise boat and somebody said, 'We signed Josh Gordon,'" Childress said. "I said, 'Who's Josh Gordon?' Honestly."
Childress now knows Gordon well.
The rest of the league is quickly finding out about him, too.
With three touchdowns — two on passes over 60 yards — in the past two games, Gordon is becoming the big, play-making wide receiver the Browns have craved. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, the faster-than-he-looks Gordon has the physical makeup to be a star. It's up to the 21-year-old rookie, who was asked to leave Baylor after twice testing positive for marijuana, to make it happen.
"He can be tremendous," Browns tight end Benjamin Watson said. "He can make all the catches. He's fast. He's strong. The biggest thing with him or any young player is being consistent and learning how to practice. He can be as good as he wants to be. He just needs to improve on his weaknesses and he doesn't have many."
After catching seven passes in his first four games, Gordon has busted out the past two weeks.
He ran past New York's secondary and hauled in a 62-yard pass against the Giants for his first career touchdown on Oct. 7. He added a 20-yard TD in the fourth quarter. Last week against Cincinnati, Gordon hooked up for a 71-yard score, snagging rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden's wind-blown throw with one hand before racing to the end zone.
Those big plays have boosted Gordon's confidence. He was way behind when he joined the Browns because he sat out a full season after transferring from Baylor to Utah.
He's literally catching on.
"It's done a great deal just helping me gain confidence," he said after practice Thursday. "More trust in the offense, the team, the coaches, the quarterback, myself, just being real confident in knowing I can go out there and make plays."
Gordon nodded and smiled when told Childress didn't know who he was when the Browns took him in the second round of July's supplemental draft, forfeiting a second-round pick in next year's draft to get him.
"I believe it," Gordon said. "A lot of people really didn't. But now that I'm here, I definitely want to make a name for myself."
Gordon's evolution as a downfield target has given Cleveland's offense a much-needed shot in the arm.
The Browns' lack of a deep threat has allowed defenses to cram the line of scrimmage and shut down the run. It's tough to break off a long gain with 22 players crammed inside a 10-yard box. Gordon, though, brings speed and quick-strike potential that teams have to honor, opening the field for the Browns — and expanding Childress' playbook.
Gordon's long TDs the past two weeks will make defenses wary.
"The fact that he's gotten behind some people and done it twice now," Childress said. "That won't happen all the time. Defenses are set up not to let you do that. They will be much more mindful of where he's at. It helps you take the top of things and move people away from the line of scrimmage and make them play you with a deep threat."
Gordon has seen mostly one-on-one coverage. If he continues to make big plays, he could force teams to double-team him, which could open things up for his teammates. It hasn't gotten to that point yet, but Gordon believes it it's just a matter of time before Cleveland's No. 13 is getting extra attention.
And if he doesn't?
"Hey, it's better for us," he said.
Because of his off-the-field troubles in college, Gordon came to the Browns as a player who had a lot to learn, and a lot to prove. He came with the label of a problem child, but Gordon has been a model citizen and is beginning to understand what it takes to be a pro.
It's taken a little longer than some expected, but Gordon is beginning to shine.
"I think the light is going on," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's making improvements. I made that comment based on what I see all week long, based on how I see him function in the building, based on the way I see him function in meetings and then how he's practicing more up to mine and our standards."
Gordon knows his past hurt his stock, and he understands why he would have been unknown to Childress.
"I was sitting out a whole year of college, I fell off the radar and I'm a long ways from where I was so I'm not surprised," he said. "But now that I've gotten my opportunity, I definitely want to come out and make a name for myself.
"Hopefully we can go back and laugh at it later."
NOTES: WR Greg Little was sent home with flu-like symptoms and missed practice. ... Shurmur expects RB Trent Richardson to play Sunday against the Colts. Richardson will wear a flak jacket to protecting a rib injury. ... Browns G Jason Pinkston also missed practice with an undisclosed illness. ... WR Travis Benjamin expects to dress this week after missing two games with a hamstring injury.
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