By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon admitted he exceeded the expectations he had for himself entering this season, so it’s not surprising that he’s setting a lofty goal for 2014.
“Hands down just be outright the best wide receiver in the NFL,” Gordon said Thursday when asked what he hopes to accomplish in his third year with the Browns (4-11), who’ll visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) on Sunday in the season finale.
Gordon, 22, knows he must become more consistent to be considered the best at his position with Detroit Lions All-Pro Calvin Johnson standing in his way.
“You can never have too much consistency,” Gordon said. “I don’t think I have enough of it. I’m glad where I’m at right now, but I think I could always do a lot better.”
Still, Gordon has clearly established himself as the Browns’ most dangerous weapon, which is why the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America unanimously selected him as the team’s player of the year. He’ll also find out if he made the first Pro Bowl of his career when the all-stars are revealed at 9 p.m. Friday on NFL Network and NFL.com.
“I definitely hope so,” Gordon said when asked if he thinks he’ll be voted to the Pro Bowl. “If not, fine. If I’m in it, that’s wonderful, too.”
Despite missing the first two games of the season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Gordon has 80 catches for an NFL-leading and franchise-record 1,564 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He has a chance to become the first Browns player to finish a season as the NFL’s leader in receiving yards. Johnson ranks second now with 1,492 receiving yards.
“At this point, I definitely want to make that a goal and finish on the top this season,” said Gordon, who’s averaging a league-leading 120.3 receiving yards per game and a league-leading 19.6 yards per catch.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon has mind-boggling numbers. For example, he has averaged 47.6 yards on his 14 career touchdown receptions.
But Gordon is coming off back-to-back disappointing performances by his standards. He caught three passes for 67 yards and a touchdown in a 38-31 loss to the Chicago Bears on Dec. 15 and six passes for 97 yards this past weekend in a 24-13 loss to the New York Jets.
“Disappointment? Definitely from the standpoint that I want to do the best that I can do, and I never want to let anyone down and miss a play,” said Gordon, whom the previous regime picked in the second round of last year’s supplemental draft. “I always want to make a play and be a guy that can be relied on. It seems as though I’ve missed a few plays the past few games, and it seemed out of character for me.”
On third-and-goal from the Jets’ 1-yard line, Gordon dropped a pass in the end zone. The next play on fourth down, he juggled the ball in the end zone before grabbing it, but the officials ruled he didn’t gain possession before stepping out of bounds.
“The first one just slipped out of my hands,” Gordon said. “I’m not really sure why I dropped that one. The second one, I thought I caught it, but I guess the way I turned away from the referee’s view, he couldn’t make a call on it.”
Gordon conceded he might have been pressing earlier in the second quarter when he dropped a pass on a slant route near the 20-yard line that could have gone for a touchdown.
“I’ve gotten that feeling a few times in games where you just want to do too much and make too many plays sometimes and just force it a little bit,” Gordon said. “You try to leave and run and make a play before you hold onto the ball — that’s a big deal for wide receivers.”
If Gordon can eliminate those types of lapses, his goal of becoming the best wide receiver would be attainable.
“He’s had some outstanding games this year. There’s still some things he can continue to keep working on, continue to keep improving and really the sky’s the limit for a guy like him,” Browns quarterback Jason Campbell said. “How good can he really be? Just talking to him, that’s the challenge I would have for him, how great do you want to be? Because he has all the ability, and week in, week out, he’s putting up numbers. We talked about last week’s game. I said, ‘Every player has those games. You just can’t get stuck on it. Bounce back this week and go out and perform in practice and move on and just challenge yourself to be that elite receiver that you want to be.’ ”
Gordon is eager to bounce back with a vengeance in the last game of his phenomenal season. He had 14 catches for 237 yards and a touchdown in the first game against the Steelers this season, so another monster performance could be in the cards.
Like Gordon, the Browns are expecting great things.
“Josh Gordon has grown a great deal, and I think we all know that he can improve a lot more,” Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “So that’s exciting.”
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.