By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Josh Gordon needs just 41 yards to break the Browns’ single-season receiving record, and he doesn’t believe New England Patriots standout cornerback Aqib Talib will prevent him from wreaking havoc Sunday.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll make some plays,” Gordon said Thursday. “But I’m definitely going to make more plays.”
After compiling 623 receiving yards in the past three games, Gordon has reasons to be confident in himself as the Browns (4-8) prepare to visit the Patriots (9-3). He needs 124 receiving yards to surpass Detroit Lions All-Pro Calvin Johnson for the most receiving yards by an NFL player in a four-game span.
Quarterback Jason Campbell practiced Thursday for the first time since suffering a concussion Nov. 24 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He could start against the Patriots if an independent neurologist medically clears him Friday for the game.
Regardless, Gordon expects to thrive. Not even the constant quarterback changes the Browns have endured this season have kept him from producing at an elite level. He has tallied more than 100 receiving yards six times this season — three times with Campbell as the starting quarterback, twice with Brandon Weeden and once with Brian Hoyer.
“Obviously, he’s proven he can be an elite receiver in this league in terms of production,” Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “Because he’s already doing that.”
Gordon has a team-high 64 catches for 1,249 yards and seven touchdowns in just 10 games. He sat out the first two games this season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. In other words, he has a chance to break Braylon Edwards’ franchise record for receiving yards in a season in only 11 games. Edwards played all 16 games when he set the record during the 2007 season.
“It would definitely be a big thing for me to attain a record like that for an entire organization,” said Gordon, whom the previous regime drafted in the second round of last year’s supplemental draft. “As long as this Cleveland Browns organization has been around, it’s a big thing.
“But as a collective unit, for the team, the record in the win column is a lot more valuable to the city, to this organization. It would mean a lot more because the [individual] records could be broken by anybody at any given time.”
In the Browns’ 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday, Gordon became the only player in NFL history to top 200 receiving yards in back-to-back games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He had 10 catches for a franchise-record 261 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 14 catches, which is tied for another Browns record, for 237 yards and a touchdown the previous week against the Steelers.
“I’m happy for him,” running back Willis McGahee said. “I think he’s been through a lot. It shows what kind of receiver he can be when he puts his mind to it. I’m pretty sure that he knows that the sky’s the limit from here on out for him. It’s a great thing to see him out there getting the yards, making the plays in the situations that we’re in. It’s not all a downside to our offense right now. He’s a good bright spot.”
If it weren’t for the Jaguars driving 80 yards and scoring a touchdown in the final minute, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon would have lifted the Browns to victory when he caught a pass from Weeden at the 23-yard line, spun away from safety Winston Guy and then outraced cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien 77 yards to the end zone for a 95-yard touchdown with 3:55 left.
Turner thought the play exemplified Gordon’s effort and disproved the assessment Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated made during minicamp. On June 5, Bedard wrote on Twitter that Gordon “loafs a lot” in practice and later addressed the subject during a radio interview with 92.3 The Fan.
“That’s why I don’t pay any attention to all the people that come in here for one or two days,” Turner said. “We sat around here in August and they complained the guy doesn’t work hard, he doesn’t run routes, he doesn’t finish — and that [95-yard touchdown] was with four minutes left in the game. He had already caught nine balls for 150 yards. I didn’t see him not run a route full speed, and he goes 95 yards and pulls away from some pretty fast guys.
“The play that was equally impressive as the Hail Mary [at the end of the game]. If you put a clock on him, I’m sure the 40-yard dash time would have been [impressive] because he was running as hard as he could run hoping he had a chance to make a play. So all this … talk is just talk. He’s a young player that’s maturing and getting a lot better, and I think he can really get a lot better. We just need to keep working the way we’ve been working and he’s been working.”
Said Gordon: “Apparently what I do on the field, it’s backing itself up. So people say I’m loafing, but I feel as though I’m going 100 percent out there on the field, and I am going 100 percent on the field.”
Gordon, whose personal-best time in the 40-yard dash is 4.37 seconds, doesn’t need to convince Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“He attacks the defense at all three levels,” Belichick said. “He can run past them. He does a good job on the underneath routes, like crossing routes and plays like that where he gets the ball and breaks tackles and makes yards on his own. He’s good on the intermediate routes, the curls and the in-cuts, the over routes. He runs good routes. He’s a big target. He’s aggressive. He’ll go up and get the ball. He’s an outstanding player.”
Talib, a Cleveland native, is also a phenomenal talent. In Week 12, he limited Denver Broncos Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to a season-low 41 yards, and in Week 6, he held New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to zero catches for the first time since his rookie season.
Still, Gordon believes he’ll be ready for whatever Talib and the Patriots throw at him.
“He’s a real physical, scrappy player,” Gordon said. “But I’m going to go out there and make plays myself and try to make sure that nobody can stop me.
“They might double-team me. They might not. If they do give me that look, we’re prepared for it. We’ve been practicing for it. But if they don’t and they single me up, we plan to exploit it.”
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 www.facebook.com/browns.abj.