Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday leftovers

The numbers for Josh Gordon are absolutely staggering and rapidly reaching Megatron levels.

Many pundits around the National Football League are just now beginning to realize what Browns fans have known for the past two seasons. The kid can really play this game.

Now consider the lean wide receiver has had three different quarterbacks throwing the football his way this season, which makes the following statistics that much more remarkable.

For your consideration, here is how Gordon’s numbers compare this season to those of Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, the original Megatron.

The 6-5, 240-pound Johnson has 72 receptions for 1,299 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games. The 6-3, 225-pound Gordon checks in with 64 catches for 1,249 yards and seven scores in 10 games (he missed the first two games serving a suspension).

Johnson has 19 catches for 20 or more yards; Gordon has 22. Johnson has caught five passes for 40 or more yards; Gordon has seven. Johnson has caught 60 passes for first downs; Gordon has 47. Johnson averages 118 yards a game; Gordon averages 125.

Now comes the kicker. Gordon is the first receiver in National Football League history with back-to-back 200-yard plus games with his virtuoso performances the last two weeks in the losses to Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. He needs only 41 more yards to eclipse Braylon Edwards’ club record for most receiving yards in a season.

In just 26 NFL games, Gordon is becoming a folk hero of sorts. In those games, he has caught 114 passes for 2,054 yards, an average of 18 yards a catch and 79 a game, and 87 first downs. He is on pace to total 1,750 yards this season. In those 114 touches, he has fumbled just once.

He rarely drops a pass that hits his hands. He’s been targeted 209 times in two seasons with maybe five drops. The most notable drop occurred against the Indianapolis Colts last season when he couldn’t hold on to a sure touchdown pass late in the game that would have given the Browns a victory.

Hard to tell whether he just has natural football instincts or it’s hard work paying off handsomely. His seemingly effortless approach to playing the position appears to lull defenders into easing off in their coverage. His soft, yet strong hands enable him to make it look easy.

Whatever it is he has, it makes every offensive snap an adventure.

Gordon’s astounding performances are the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary and very forgettable season. He’s so good, most fans blink in disbelief, “does he really play for the Browns?”

Browns Nation isn’t used to performances like Gordon has provided. They’re much more used to bad football. As stated here before, Gordon is too good to play for this team. His efforts deserve to be rewarded with much more than losing football on a nearly weekly basis.

The fact he is able to elevate his game despite the yoke of pervasive losing is an achievement in and of itself. If not for his feats, there’s no telling how bad this offense would be.

And to think the Browns seriously considered trading him earlier in the season. Thankfully, no team came along and offered Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi a deal they couldn’t refuse.

OK, so Gordon faces a season suspension if he has drug problems again. His immense talent is worth a gamble that he’ll stay straight and realize he can make a lot of money if he continues to amaze.

For those of you who like to dream, Gordon has an outside chance to become the first wide receiver in NFL history to record a 2,000-yard season. With four games remaining, he needs 751 yards, or 188 yards a game, to reach that total.

Impossible? Probably. The way he’s playing now, though, there’s no telling how much higher he can elevate his game.

~ All season long, the Browns’ defense has had problems covering tight ends. In Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, for example, tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor scored touchdowns.  In the loss to Detroit, seldom-used tight end Joseph Fauria scored three times.

Whether it’s a linebacker or strong safety T. J. Ward in coverage, opposing quarterbacks seem to have little trouble finding the open tight end. And you can be certain Bill Belichick is well aware of that and game planning thusly for the Browns’ invasion Sunday in New England.

If you have Rob Gronkowski on your fantasy football team, count on a big week for points. The Patriots tight end, who missed the first six weeks of the season after undergoing back surgery in June, has roared back with 37 receptions for 560 yards in six games and has scored a touchdown in his last four games.

Count on Tom Brady looking often toward the 6-6, 265-pounder, especially on seam routes that appear to confound Cleveland defenders. If the likes of Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert and Heath Miller have big days against the Cleveland defense, imagine what Gronkowski will do.

~ What in the world has happened to the Browns’ pass rush? After nailing quarterbacks 31 times in the first nine games, it has only two in the past three. And both came against an infinitely inferior Jacksonville offensive line Sunday.

Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne had all kinds of time to pick apart the Cleveland secondary in the final minutes of Sunday’s loss. The Browns applied no pressure whatsoever as Henne teed up Ace Sanders and Cecil Shorts III during the 80-yard scoring drive.

If the best they can do against the Jaguars is two sacks, then it challenges defensive coordinator Ray Horton to come up with methods to rediscover the secret to 31 sacks in nine games because what he’s dialing up now obviously isn’t working.

~ Of course coach Rob Chudzinski is upset with the Jacksonville loss. He should also be embarrassed. “We won’t stand for losing,” he said following Sunday’s loss. “We’re going to get this fixed. It’s unacceptable.”

It’s a little late to fix things. If you’re still fixing things after game 12, either you and your coaches are not coaching properly or you don’t have a good team. Maybe both. The Browns have some good individual players. Just not a good team.

However, Chudzinski won’t fault the way his men played against the Jags. “It’s not about the effort of the group,” he said. “It’s about the mistakes.” He’s got that right. But he fails to realize mistakes separate the bad teams from the good teams.

~ Notebook: The Browns have been in gift-giving mode the last three losses. They have committed 11 turnovers that have been turned into 46 points by the opposition. Throw in two blocked punts that resulted in points and that total rises to 60. . . . The Browns compiled only 97 rushing yards against the NFL’s worst run defense Sunday. Do you still think the Browns’ offensive line is good? Center Alex Mack has been the best of that group, notwithstanding his costly snapping problem against Jacksonville. . . . Willis McGahee’s rushing TD against the Jags was only the second of the season via the ground and the first since he scored in game five against Buffalo. . . . Strong safety T. J. Ward and cornerback Buster Skrine were the best players on defense Sunday. Ward has played several strong games in a row. And Skrine plays much bigger than his 5-9, 185-pound frame. 

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