Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday leftovers

The Browns insist they are not seeking to trade wide receiver Josh Gordon. And there is no reason to disbelieve them.

What they are not saying is there is at least a chance Gordon will be wearing the colors of a different uniform by 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon.

Technically, the Browns are burning the telephone lines in an effort to move the stylish and very productive Gordon, but not because they initiated those conversations. They are accepting calls from National Football League teams desperate enough to at least inquire on how badly the Browns want to move him.

If it weren’t for the fact the second-year man is one negative drug test away from a year’s suspension, the lead of this notebook would be about something entirely different.

The Browns are listening to teams like San Francisco and New England, teams that have serious wide receiver needs. They also have high draft choices they would be more than willing to part with to take a chance with Gordon. Only problem is those picks will be in the lower portion of rounds.

It must be awfully tempting to Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi to reach for the plunger that would eject Gordon out of Cleveland. After all, they didn’t select him in the second round of the supplemental draft in 2012. Credit that gem to Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert Jr. Banner and Lombardi have no connection to Gordon.

If they do make a deal and obtain first- and/or second-round choices in the next college draft as compensation, that would be a mistake. Even bigger than shipping Trent Richardson off to Indianapolis a couple of weeks into the season.

They would be losing a player who has made a surprisingly significant impact on the offense. No one expected Gordon to come right in and play as though he belonged. In 22 NFL games, the 6-3, 225-pounder has caught 82 passes for 1,387 yards, eight touchdowns and 65 first downs. All but 17 of his receptions have produced first downs. And he has fumbled the ball just once.

Want to get rid of production like that? No, no and NO.

Richardson’s absence, as it has turned out, has not seriously harmed the Cleveland running game. That’s because the Browns have no running game. Their offense is predicated on the forward pass. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is a pass-first, run-second kind of guy. That has become apparent.

So if Banner and Lombardi decide they don’t want to gamble that Gordon will stay straight and moving him is addition by subtraction, they would seriously damage what is a decent passing offense by removing the reason it can be called decent.

Trading Gordon and getting very little back from a personnel standpoint is like removing one tire and rim from your car and expecting it to run smoothly. It’s not going to work.

Reducing the wide receivers corps to the likes of Davone Bess, Greg Little and Brian Tyms is ludicrously ignorant. Travis Benjamin is no longer around after suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Sunday's loss to Kansas City.

Sure Jordan Cameron would become the new No. 1 man, But he’s a tight end who is needed for blocking every now and then and would not be available on an every-play basis. Besides, he would become the No. 1 target for opposing defenses and draw at least double coverage.

With Benjamin’s injury, everything now points to the Browns doing nothing with regard to Gordon. He is clearly the most valuable player in this offense. Unless Banner and Lombardi can extract multiple draft choices and a player for him, the buildup to his possible departure will be nothing more than that.

More likely to be moved is Little, whose improvement from year to year can be measured microscopically. He has become a non-factor in the Cleveland offense and might fetch a late-round pick.

If anything, the Browns missed the boat on Little when they didn’t try to convert him into a running back. He was a very good high school tailback and played some at the position at the University of North Carolina.  

When 4 p.m. rolls around Tuesday, status quo might be the order of the day and we can proceed to the second half of the season.

~ All week long before the Browns-Chiefs game Sunday, much was made about the great Kansas City pass rush. And with good reason. When you average five sacks a game, that’s worthy of chest-pounding boasting.

So where was that pass rush against the Browns? Only one sack and four hits on Campbell? Maybe it was an off day. Then again, maybe it was because the Browns’ offensive line played one of its best games of the season from a pass-blocking standpoint.

One of the main reasons Campbell was hardly touched was his ability to get rid of the ball quickly and decisively. The frustrated Chiefs pass rush was left with nothing but air to grab by the time it got close to the Cleveland quarterback.

Every pass was crisply thrown and not once did a Chiefs lineman stick his hand up and deflect a throw. The 6-5 Campbell’s overhead delivery makes that nearly impossible. And it was refreshing to watch him use his agility and pocket awareness to avoid a sack on at least four occasions.

It would appear the offense is in good hands for the rest of the season. The Browns look like a different team with Campbell in the game.

~ What in the world is wrong with Joe Thomas? The annual Pro Bowl offensive tackle is not having a Pro Bowl season. Not even close. He has accumulated multiple false starts and holding penalties in the first half of the season.

He’s the one guy along the offensive front you usually don’t have to worry about. You know he’s going to be solid in pass protection and produce holes on the left side of the line for the running game. But it appears as though his reputation might be taking a hit.

Based on the first eight games, his play has been disappointing. It’s possible he might be playing through an injury. No one knows for certain and he’s not going to tell. If it’s just a slump, he’s got plenty of time to redeem himself.

~ Credit Ray Horton for making some terrific in-game adjustments. The defensive coordinator changed up his blitz schemes in the second quarter after the Chiefs took advantage several times in the first half.

The Browns must have been tipping off their blitzes and Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith changed the original call, switching to screen passes away from the blitz. And they worked every time, especially on Anthony Sherman’s second-quarter touchdown on, what else, a screen pass.

Horton cleverly disguised his blitzes in the second half and completely threw Smith off his normal rhythm. After converting nine of their first 12 third downs in the first half, the Chiefs converted only one of seven in the final 30 minutes.

~ Notebook: The Chiefs so dominated the first half, they had a 23:00-7:00 lead in time of possession. In the second half, though, the Browns stormed back with a 17:00-13:00 margin. It was 17:00-11:00 before surrendering the ball on downs with two minutes left. Overall, K.C. led, 36:00-24:00. . . . Cornerback Joe Haden had another solid game, holding Dwayne Bowe to just one catch before Bowe left with an injury. The linebackers, however, had trouble with Dexter McCluster. The little scatback caught seven passes for 67 yards and a TD. . . . Inside linebacker Craig Robertson and safeties T. J . Ward and Tashaun Gipson had terrific games. Robertson had 11 solo tackles, while Ward (10) and Gipson (9) combined for 19 solos. . . . Kudos to coach Rob Chudzinski on the gutsy call on a fourth-and-1 at the Kansas City 19 on the first possession of the second half. A field goal would have made it 20-13. In a what-have-you-got-to-lose moment, Chudzinski said nothing to lose. Willis McGahee, with a great push from the offensive line, easily picked up a couple of yards. On the next play, Foswhitt Whittaker circled out of the backfield and Campbell hit him perfectly for a 17-yard touchdown. Well done.

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