Gordon flashing for recharged Browns

Josh Gordon arrived at training camp out of shape, unfamiliar

with the Browns’ playbook and saddled with personal baggage from a

troubled college career.

Another lost rookie, Gordon was way behind.

He’s caught up.

”He’s our top receiver right now,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson

said.

With a long, elegant stride and deceiving speed, the 21-year-old

Gordon has emerged as Cleveland’s biggest deep threat, perhaps the

club’s best playmaker and maybe the end of the Browns’ search for a

bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, something they haven’t had in

years.

Gordon, blessed with enormous talent, is the whole package.

”He’s big and he’s fast and he can catch,” said Browns coach

Pat Shurmur.

Gordon had the best game of his brief career last Sunday,

catching six passes for 116 yards and one touchdown as the Browns

ended a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 victory over the

Oakland Raiders. It was a breakout performance for Gordon, who was

taken in the second round of the NFL’s supplemental draft in July

by the Browns, who were criticized for a selection many considered

too risky.

Gordon, though, has made general manager Tom Heckert’s gamble

pay off.

The Browns haven’t had a receiver with comparable, game-breaking

skills to Gordon since Braylon Edwards, who had 16 TD receptions in

2007 but then tailed off quickly and was eventually traded. Gordon

has five TDs this season, the most by a Browns rookie since Andre’

Davis in 2002.

And he’s hungry for more.

”He’s starting to get a feel for what he can do,” Browns

rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. ”The sky is the limit for

that guy. He’s talented, he’s tall, he’s long, he’s fast. He can

catch the ball well. He does all the things you would want.

”I’m glad he’s on our side.”

While Gordon was the subject of many conversations inside the

Browns’ facility and locker room this week, the 6-foot-3,

225-pounder kept a low profile. That’s how it’s been since he was

drafted by Cleveland, which forfeited a second-round pick in 2013

to get him.

Gordon is quiet, polite and refreshingly unassuming.

”It’s just me being me,” he said.

He came with questions surrounding his character. Gordon was

dismissed from Baylor’s team after being suspended twice for

marijuana use, and then he didn’t play after transferring to Utah,

where he failed another drug test. He hasn’t had any problems as a

pro, and that’s how Gordon intends to keep it.

Gordon knows there are some who expect him to fail. He uses that

as motivation.

”There’s a lot more eyes on me compared to other guys,” he

said. ”A lot of people either expect a downfall or expect another

type of mess-up or are waiting for a slipup. I came in trying to be

mature about it, and that’s how I approach it every day. I watch

the guys ahead of me, the veteran guys and see how they carry

themselves and how I should do the same.”

Gordon has leaned on Jackson, tight end Ben Watson and wide

receiver Josh Cribbs for advice and guidance. They’ve explained to

him the importance of working hard, using his free time wisely and

striving to be consistent – on and off the field.

Gordon is following their lead. He’s growing up.

There have been no missteps, just positive strides forward.

”He’s young,” Cribbs said. ”He has an opportunity to right

the ship. Nobody cares about how you fall down, it’s about how you

get back up. He’s done a great job of bouncing back from anything

that might have happened in his past and you don’t see it in his

future and that’s a great thing.

”He’s still a kid.”

Gordon’s ability to get deep is transforming the Browns’

offense. With his ability to run past a cornerback, defenses must

keep a safety back to protect against a long completion. By drawing

two defenders, underneath passing routes open as do running

lanes.

Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress has noticed defenses

paying more attention to Gordon, who is averaging 19 yards per

catch and 46 yards on his TD grabs.

”You kind of want to know where that guy’s at,” Childress

said.

Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown saw Gordon’s potential

immediately. Early in training camp, Brown, an 11-year veteran who

knows every trick in the book, was covering Gordon and thought he

had the youngster bottled up.

”I had perfect coverage and he stuck one hand out and catches

the ball,” Brown said. ”He’ll make a few plays in this league.

The sky is the limit for him. He’s still learning, but he’s a

talent. I just want to see him continue to grow and continue to

gain confidence because he can be very special.”

Brown isn’t alone in his appraisal.

While other teams passed on Gordon, the Browns dared to look

deeper and took a chance on him.

He doesn’t want to let them down.

”It meant a lot to me,” he said. ”I never will forget it and

I’m always grateful for it. I think about it every day and it’s why

I have the attitude I have. I don’t want to take anything for

granted and keep going as hard as I can. I never want to feel

complacent or content in any aspect of the game.

”As soon as you do that, that’s when something will go

wrong.”

NOTES: T Joe Thomas was named the Browns’ Walter Payton Man of

the Year, one day after blasting former teammate Peyton Hillis, who

will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Thomas is the team’s

first two-time winner of the award, which recognizes performance

and community service. … For the second day in a row, all 53

players on the active roster practiced. .. Childress acknowledged

testifying earlier this week in the Saints’ ongoing bounty probe.

Then the former Minnesota coach was one of the first to alert the

NFL of a possible problem after Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was

roughed up in the 2010 NFC Championship.

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