Post Minicamp – News and Notes – Cleveland Browns
Josh Gordon Suspension:
It was a tough hit for the Cleveland Browns’ offense as second-year wide out Josh Gordon’s services would not be available during the first two games of the 2013 season. This stemmed from the athlete (allegedly) ingesting codeine while taking medicine (to treat an illness) during the winter – the result was a failed drug test for the former University of Baylor product.
There are a few ways to analyze this; first is the fan reaction. Should Browns’ supporters be vehemently upset with young athlete who has now failed another drug test? Do fans feel sympathy for Gordon and believe the league is too strict in not allowing him to play in every regular season game this year? Or is there a middle ground, where fans are both disappointed in the player for not following the rules, while wishing the NFL would be more compassionate in their verdict? Personally (assuming the excuse is 100% factual), I feel for Gordon and hope he can work harder in the offseason to overcome this – beginning in week three. I am not excusing his behavior, but I hope this provides a forum to ensure mistakes are not made by anyone within the organization going forward – otherwise they could be looking for work.
Additionally, will fans and the team put up a “woe is me” attitude or see this as an opportunity for others? The Browns’ record in season openers is well documented (1 – 13); any way they can garner a victory to start the year would be huge. Missing one of their top targets is a definite blow to the offense, leading to some feeling the entire team will suffer. In past years, I would have been one to go along with this thinking; however, what has occurred in 2013 still gives me hope. The vibe this team gives off is one without disdain in the locker room and supporting Gordon – leaning towards teammates pulling together.
I have not felt this much confidence in the Browns’ receiving corps in a long while, and although the team may not attempt as many “big” plays against the Dolphins and Ravens, all is not lost. As is the case, the remaining group will go forward – Greg Little, Davone Bess, and Travis Benjamin will be given opportunities. Roles have preliminarily been defined for each of these three; Bess is the chains mover, Benjamin excels at deep, fly patterns, and Little is a solid underneath route runner. Gordon was able to do a little of each; now the other three should work on incorporating additional responsibilities in order to stay on the field longer. Otherwise, Jordan Norwood and Josh Cooper will get a crack at finding their way into the lineup.
Another reason why I will not overreact to this, centers around the balance of the offense – Trent Richardson, Dion Lewis, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Montario Hardesty ought to be able to shoulder a fair amount of yardage in 2013. I believe Lewis can occasionally play in the slot as well, incorporating another option in the passing game. Provided all of the running backs are healthy; opponents will primarily game plan around stopping the run – I do not think this will come easily, however.
A wide receiver can be a huge part of an NFL offense (i.e. Calvin Johnson), but more cases than not he is a cog in the wheel. Their individual success is extremely dependent upon the play of the quarterback – therefore the progression of Brandon Weeden over the next few months will be huge leading into September. If the signal caller performs how he did in last season’s opener (completing twelve of thirty-five passes for 118 yards and four interceptions), and the Browns could have Jerry Rice in his prime at wide out and he would not be able to help the team a great deal. Fortunately, I am confident Weeden will play well against the Dolphins and Ravens – winning these contests will be determined by several components, and the Browns’ passing attack is just a portion.
Conclusion: While the Gordon suspension hurts the team and the individual, it’s not time to forgo the season and assume the Browns will not win more than five games. Coach Chud and Norv Turner will have to slightly adjust their offensive game plan in the first two meetings, but assuming status quo (no further suspensions or injuries) they should still be able to keep their opponents guessing. I am hopeful, as several veterans (some in their second or third season) are key pieces on the offense – the growing pains of starting multiple rookies, out of necessity, are no longer staring the team in the face.