Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon ran a go route along the sideline, reached above his head and made a spectacular catch with one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks applying airtight coverage.
The Browns finished with six penalties and three turnovers. They allowed a blocked punt and five sacks, including three given up by a starting offensive line that was manhandled.
Still, Gordon provided a bright spot in the 27-10 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon played for most of the first half and finished with three catches for 50 yards, including a 28-yard reception over the reach of standout cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha during the first play from scrimmage. Early Saturday morning, Gordon tweeted a photo of himself making the highlight-reel catch with a rhetorical question — “Is that Nnamdi?” — as the caption.
“The fact that it just happened to be Nnamdi, it’s a confidence booster, sure,” Gordon said. “[It] just helped prove to myself I could actually come out here and try to hold my own.”
The Browns will host the Chicago Bears on Thursday night in their final exhibition game. They’ll face the Eagles again in the regular-season opener Sept. 9, and Gordon hopes to shine again when it actually matters.
“I definitely needed a game like this,” said Gordon, who the Browns picked in the second round of the supplemental draft July 12. “And hopefully when we come back to [play the Eagles] in a few more weeks, we start to do a whole lot more with the full four quarters.”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden believes his connection with Gordon is becoming stronger. In addition to the 28-yard play at the beginning of the game, they hooked up for completions of 10 and 12 yards, both of which resulted in first downs.
“I think the confidence between the two of us is growing,” Weeden said. “He’s hungry. He’s playing hungry. He’s really excited to come to work every day and really grinding to get better. I think where he’s come from Day One to where he’s at now, I think he’s [improved] the most of anybody on this football team. He’s done a great job. I’m really happy with the way Josh has been playing.”
Gordon lacked hustle and appeared lackadaisical in several training camp practices, though he started to turn the corner last week. It showed against the Eagles.
“It’ll definitely help me and benefit me in the game,” Gordon said. “The way I practice, it translates over without saying. But going harder in practice, getting your wind up and getting used to the speed of the game … definitely helped.”
Weeden felt heavy pressure in two exhibition games thus far, and he fumbled in both of them. He was strip-sacked once against the Detroit Lions and twice against the Eagles.
Ball security is obviously a concern at this point.
“We talked about it after week one [of the preseason],” Weeden said. “We stress it.
“I’ve gotta take care of the football down there. I understand the importance of it. … I’ve just got to continue to harp on it.”
Weeden said he must adjust to the speed of NFL pass rushers and understand when he needs to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure. He must adapt in a hurry because the Eagles will try to bring the heat again in Week 1.
“They’re fast,” Weeden said. “That’s their game plan. That’s what they do. That’s what their strong suit is, getting after the passer. … We respect them as pass rushers. We knew they were gonna try to come up the field and try to put as much pressure on me as possible. We’ve got to watch this one. I think there’s a lot of good things. The result wasn’t exactly like we wanted, but I think there are some things we’re gonna see on the tape that [indicate] we’re close.”
Center Alex Mack acknowledged the challenge that lies ahead.
“We knew they were talented,” he said. “They have a good front. We need to play better as an offense.
“We have a job in front of us, without a doubt. I think it’s a good opportunity to build upon this game.”
Making his case?
Quarterback Colt McCoy entered the game late in the first half and completed 7-of-9 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown to tight end Evan Moore before Seneca Wallace took over with 11:18 left in the fourth quarter. McCoy’s 3-yard scoring strike to Moore capped a 15-play, 78-yard drive.
“It was a long drive, we were getting winded and we just kept marching it down,” McCoy said. “I had to use my feet a couple of times and get out of the pocket. I definitely didn’t want to give them another sack because they had a lot, and I was glad to get in the end zone.”
Does McCoy believe he has done enough to win the backup quarterback job?
“I don’t want to go there, all right?” he said. “Thank you.”
Moore, who seems to be on the roster bubble, also didn’t want to discuss how his performance could affect his future. Teams must trim their rosters to 75 players Monday and 53 players Friday.
“I don’t think about it honestly,” Moore said. “I’ll let you speculate about that. [I was] just trying to make a play. I know that was the beginning of the fourth quarter and we were well behind at that point, but the only thing I see about that touchdown is it brought us seven points closer to their point total at that point in the game. That’s it.”
Strong safety David Sims would have had his second interception for a touchdown in as many weeks, but his 30-yard interception return for a touchdown was nullified by rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson’s roughing-the-passer penalty. … Starting right defensive end Frostee Rucker, the team’s top free-agent acquisition in the offseason, debuted with the Browns after sitting out the first two preseason games with an injured right knee. Starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (shoulder) and starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (pelvis) made their 2012 preseason debuts. … Starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (head), rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin (undisclosed) and tight end Jordan Cameron (back) returned to action after sitting out against the Packers. Cameron started because Benjamin Watson sat out with an undisclosed injury. … Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins had a walking boot on his right foot, and running back Chris Ogbonnaya had one on his left foot. They were spotted in the locker-room area Friday before the game. … The Browns were off Saturday. They’ll practice this afternoon.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.