BEREA: When the Browns drafted rookie Josh Gordon, the idea of starting him opposite fellow wide receiver Greg Little became an intriguing possibility because of the size and physical prowess each player possesses.
Now it’s on the verge of becoming reality.
The Browns (0-4) will rely on the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon and the 6-2, 220-pound Little as the one-two punch in their receiving corps Sunday, when they visit the New York Giants (2-2). With Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin dealing with hamstring injuries, Gordon said he will start Sunday.
“I’m starting at the X position opposite of Greg because of the numbers that we have, guys down and whatnot,” Gordon said Thursday after practice. “So I’m definitely having to step up and fill a void for right now.”
Gordon has started twice this season, but the Browns opened in a three-receiver set on both occasions. With Massaquoi sidelined last week for the Browns’ 23-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Josh Cribbs started in his place but suffered a concussion when he absorbed a vicious hit during a punt return in the first quarter. Cribbs returned to practice Wednesday, but Gordon simultaneously seized his opportunity to earn a more prominent role.
“I thought he had his best practice as a professional [Wednesday],” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said of Gordon. “I didn’t see any hesitation. I didn’t see him thinking about anything. I saw him playing fast, catching the football, just doing all the things that a professional receiver, you expect to see.”
It wasn’t always the case with Gordon. The Browns drafted him July 12 in the second round of the supplemental draft, so he missed organized team activities and minicamps in the spring. He often looked lackadaisical during training camp and throughout the preseason.
Gordon said he agrees with Childress’ assessment and conceded he hasn’t always been at his best during practice.
“I haven’t been as consistent as the other day, I guess, and practicing as hard and as fast,” Gordon said. “But I definitely want to keep it up to that tempo from here on out.
“The coaches expect the best out of me every, every day, and I’m just trying to give that to them and really prove it to myself that I can go out there and compete and be consistent as much as possible.”
The Browns need Gordon to step up. Massaquoi and Benjamin haven’t practiced all week, so the receiving corps is short-handed. The sense of urgency created by the situation motivated Gordon to excel during his preparation for the Giants.
“You may look to the sideline and there’s nobody gonna come in for you,” he said. “There’s no break, there’s no rest. You’re pretty much gonna have to either man up to it and hold up to your responsibilities and that’s really what it came down to, and at this point there’s really nothing holding me back.”
Gordon has played 144-of-262 offensive snaps (55 percent) and has only seven catches for 93 yards. Childress said he believes Gordon is ready for a larger role in the offense.
“Different people, the light comes on at different times,” Childress said.
Gordon said it flickered because he wants to meet his own expectations, and he realized he’ll receive a golden opportunity to break out Sunday.
“I’m just trying to live up to the potential I think I can play at, perform on the big stage and make big plays,” Gordon said. “I hold high standards for myself. And really when other people are feeling as though I’m not playing up to those standards, I definitely have the urge to try to go prove that person, not necessarily wrong, but prove to myself that I can be accountable and be responsible and just be a guy that you could look toward in the team [as] a main go-to guy out there at wide receiver.”
Little believes Gordon has what it takes. And Little has noticed Gordon’s attention to detail and route running improve in recent practices.
“I definitely see a guy that just wants it,” Little said. “He wants it so much that you can see how it pours out of him ’cause he wants to push himself to be that elite playmaker.”
Now Gordon must prove himself on game day.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.