The Cleveland Browns were all but eliminated from playoff contention with their 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. However, there was one bright spot in the game—wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Coming off of his 14-catch, 237-yard, one-touchdown performance last week against the Steelers, he caught 10 passes against Jacksonville for 261 yards and two scores. He broke the Browns' single-game receiving yardage record he set in Week 12 and has become the only receiver in NFL history with back-to-back 200-yard receiving games.
Gordon clinched the 200-yard mark on a 95-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter after being temporarily sidelined with a possible concussion. Sunday's performance brings Gordon's yards on the year to an impressive 1,249, with his touchdown total rising to seven. He's managed this feat after only 10 games, having served a two-game suspension to start the year.
Further, Gordon has played so well with three quarterbacks throwing to him—something unprecedented for the rest of the league's top receivers. From Brandon Weeden to Brian Hoyer to Jason Campbell and back to Weeden, Gordon's on-field production hasn't slowed despite these significant changes under center. It bodes well for his career and even better for the Browns offense as a whole.
In the offseason, the Browns opted to retool the defensive side of the ball, leaving the offense until later. This may have proven to be a smart strategy, with Weeden proving not to be the long-term answer at quarterback and Hoyer eventually sidelined for the year with a torn ACL.
The Browns currently have two first-round picks to work with in 2014—as it presently stands, the seventh and the 26th—as well as two picks apiece in the third and fourth rounds. That's a lot of ammo with which they can reload their offense.
That's potentially good news for Gordon. Considering what he's accomplished with a carousel of quarterbacks, if the Browns can finally find stability at the position next year he could easily be the league's top receiver. That QB likely isn't Weeden, whose days are woefully numbered in Cleveland, and it's not Campbell either, who will be retained as a veteran backup.
That job will belong to either Hoyer or perhaps a rookie. Whoever wins the job will be handed quite the gift in Gordon. He's clearly the type of receiver who can make any quarterback look good.
|Browns Draft Picks, 2014|
|Round||No. of Picks|
|1||2 (Own, Colts)|
|3||2 (Own, Steelers)|
|4||2 (Own, Colts)|
|Would pick No. 7 and 26 in Round 1 as of now|
The Browns are just a few players away—running back, quarterback, right tackle—from being a complete team. The defense has been solid in its first year under coordinator Ray Horton. If they take the same methodical approach to fine-tuning their offense as they did the defense, this won't be a four-win team by this point next year.
Gordon has a lot of talent around him on the offense. Jordan Cameron has come into his own as a dangerous receiving tight end (who, granted, has struggled with the rotation at quarterback), Greg Little still has value as a possession receiver as long as his role is limited, and Davone Bess is a solid slot receiver. The offensive line is strong and should remain so as long as they re-sign center Alex Mack in the offseason. The addition of just a few key players will do much to improve the situation.
If there's any team that understands that rebuilding is a process and not something that can be accomplished overnight, it's the Browns. They've undergone so many rebuilds since returning to the league in 1999, however, that they are desperate for one to stick. This current regime, led by Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi in the front office, seems to have a good plan in place, addressing one side of the ball at a time. Now it's the offense's turn.
Josh Gordon's emergence this season provides a compelling argument for the Browns to take an aggressive approach to finding their quarterback of the future and improving all facets of their offense this offseason. He's clearly capable of being the best receiver the Browns have ever had—and, potentially, one of the best to ever play the game.
The Browns need to do Gordon justice by surrounding him with other playmakers. The team will be handsomely rewarded if they do. Luckily, with a glut of 2014 draft picks, the Browns are in a great position to transform into an all-around success story, with Gordon as the crown jewel.