By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner is pleased with wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, but he knows they can’t carry the load by themselves.
“Josh’s presence is always there whether he’s making plays or whether they’re aware of him in terms of doubling him,” Turner said Thursday before practice. “We have to find a way to get everyone involved in our offense. Right now, Jordan and Josh are making most of the plays in the passing game, and we need to get everyone involved because at some point, if you only have two guys really making a lot of plays, pretty soon that can dry up.”
In other words, the Browns (3-5) need more out of their No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, Greg Little and Davone Bess starting Sunday when they host the Baltimore Ravens (3-4). Both have struggled this season.
Little has dropped five passes, according to ProFootballFocus.com’s count. He has 21 catches for 218 yards and a touchdown.
“Greg’s [lack of production] is a combination of a couple of things,” Turner said. “He’s had some bad luck. He’s had two or three times where he’s been completely open deep, he’s run great routes, double moves and for some reason, we didn’t get the ball off. We had pressure, whatever, those things, and that’s kind of the position he plays, but there are going to be opportunities for him. We’re playing against good corners and you’ve got so many opportunities, so I think when they start doubling Josh and we start having some issues, I think he’s going to start having an opportunity to make some plays.”
Bess leads the NFL with nine drops, according to ProFootballFocus. He has 28 receptions for 261 yards.
“Davone, we know what he is,” Turner said. “He’s a pro. He’s a competitor. He’s going through a little bit of a tough period right now. But he’s practicing well, he’s catching the ball, so I expect him to come out of it.”
In the Browns’ 23-17 loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, Gordon and Cameron combined to catch nine of quarterback Jason Campbell’s 22 completions for 213 of his 293 passing yards and one of his two touchdowns. Little and Bess combined to catch four passes for 35 yards, and Bess had three drops.
“I wouldn’t say [we] lack options,” Turner said. “I think those guys are going to make plays. I’m saying that’s where the ball is going, and I know it’s going to have to get spread around as we continue. So we just need to make sure, and we’re doing it on the field, all of these guys get opportunities, and it’s going to come up where everyone has to be part of it.”
Campbell insists he’s confident in Little and Bess.
“They’re pros,” Campbell said. “Like I told Greg, ‘You never know; every week is going to be different. It may be your week. It might be Davone’s week. You just never know.’ You just always have to stay prepared and have your mindset ready for that because we understand we’re a young offense that’s growing. But we need to try to grow really fast to keep up with everyone.”
Through the first half of this season, strong safety T.J. Ward is the second-rated safety in the NFL, first against the run and seventh in coverage, according to ProFootballFocus’ grading system. Only the Patriots’ Devin McCourty has a higher overall rating.
“I’m playing well against the run, but my goal is to be the best overall safety,” Ward said. “That’s great. Don’t get me wrong. I take pride in that. But at the end of day, you want to be the best safety overall if you can, and that’s my goal. I feel I have the ability to do that, and that’s what I’m working at.”
Ward is in the final season of his four-year rookie contract, which he said is “definitely in my mind.” He and center Alex Mack are the most notable Browns players scheduled to become free agents next March.
Contract talks haven’t heated up yet. But does Ward want to re-sign with the Browns?
“Yeah, definitely, no doubt,” Ward said. “I love my teammates. I think we have a great team that’s going to constantly improve. We’re young, and I just see a bright future for us.”
Ward ranks second on the team with 65 tackles, including a half sack. He has two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and five passes defensed.
Buckeye State celebrity
New Browns wide receiver Armanti Edwards quickly realized he’s an instant fan favorite in Ohio because he played quarterback for Appalachian State when it shocked Michigan 34-32 in 2007. Much to the delight of Ohio State fans, it was the first time a I-AA team defeated a ranked BCS school.
“Michigan is a great win that the world knew,” said Edwards, who signed with the Browns on Tuesday. “But people don’t realize I was part of two national championships, and we lost only two conference games in my four years.”
Edwards spent the beginning of this season and the past three years with the Carolina Panthers after they drafted him in the third round (89th overall) in 2010 and converted him to a receiver and returner.
“It was very difficult,” Edwards said. “I played quarterback all my life and to come and play with the best players in the world and your change position, it was a tough.”
Edwards spent the past two seasons with Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, when he served as the Panthers’ offensive coordinator. The Panthers cut Edwards Oct. 8.
In three-plus seasons with the Panthers, he had five receptions for 121 yards, two carries for 12 yards, 36 punt returns for 253 yards and 15 kickoff returns for 295 yards. He believes he’s capable of much more, and Chudzinski said Edwards would be an option as a returner against the Ravens.
“I was just waiting on my opportunity [with the Panthers] and it never came,” Edwards said. “Hopefully, here I can get an opportunity as soon as possible and show them I belong.”
Browns cornerback Joe Haden hopes ex-teammate and current New York Jets return man Josh Cribbs was misquoted like he claimed after he reportedly told Newsday, “We’re not the Browns. We’re not the team that gives up.” Haden doesn’t believe Cribbs would insult his friends and former teammates like that. “He said that he said something different,” Haden said. “I know Cribbs is not going to be that guy. Cribbs is a stand-up dude. I hope spell check or something messed up. I love that dude. I talk to him to this day. If I call him and ask him, ‘Cribbs, what the hell happened, bro,’ I know he loves the city.” … Running back Willis McGahee took his usual Thursday practice off to rest his knees. Everyone else on the Browns’ active roster practiced. ... Quarterback Scott Tolzien, 26, chose to stay on the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad despite the Browns trying to sign him to their 53-man roster two weeks ago, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported. The Packers raised his weekly salary from $6,000 to $32,058, according to the NFL Players Association.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.