Despite the Cleveland Browns' humiliating loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, wide receiver Josh Gordon continued his assault on the record books. One week after setting the Browns' single-game receiving record with 237 yards, he topped that mark with 261.
The improvements in Gordon’s game can be seen with the naked eye but really come to life when you turn on the game film. The same kid who gave minimal effort early in the year is now fighting for catches and running professional style routes to perfection.
On Monday morning I gave the entire team, including the wide receivers, “F” grades for their performance against the Jaguars. I still stand by that. This three-game slide is on everyone no matter how well they have played.
Let’s take a look at Gordon’s big day in this week’s film breakdown.
Play 1: 1st-and-10 in the first quarter
This is the Browns' first offensive play of the game and no one has scored yet. They were given good field position and will now take a shot down the field.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner calls a play that has three deep routes. Receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon will run streaks while tight end Jordan Cameron will run a post route to the inside.
Running back Chris Ogbonnaya will be the safety valve and run a short curl route.
As soon as the ball is snapped quarterback Brandon Weeden does a good job of reading the deep safety. He sees that the safety has froze because of the deep post route that Cameron is running across the middle of the field.
Once Weeden sees the safety freeze for just a moment, he heaves up a throw to Gordon deep down the sidelines.
While the pass was underthrown, it gave Gordon a chance at a jump ball. He will win those most of the time.
Look at how he attacks the football at its highest point, giving the defender zero chance at getting a hand on the pass.
Early in the year we saw plenty of examples where Gordon was a little lackadaisical when going after balls that he should catch. At 6’3” and 225 pounds, he should not lose many 50/50 balls.
Play 2: 3rd-and-10 in the second quarter
At this point in the game the score is tied 7-7 and the Browns are threatening at the Jaguars' 21-yard line. Turner calls a play, which has multiple options around the first down marker. He also has Ogbonnaya split out wide for a screen if the corners double-team Gordon.
Gordon’s route is simple. He will run a streak into the end zone.
The outside corner jumps on Ogbonnaya, leaving Gordon in single coverage. The safety notices the coverage late and is too far into the middle of the field.
Weeden sees the coverage and unloads a pass over the shoulder of Gordon in the end zone.
The pass is perfect but Gordon once again high-points the football. He angles his body backward to make sure his hands are the first to touch the football as it approaches.
While Weeden made a perfect throw, Gordon ensured the pass could not be defended even against perfect technique.
His speed allowed him to beat the corner, but his aggressiveness to catch the football ensured the pass was a touchdown and gave the Browns the lead.
Play 3: 1st-and-5 in the fourth quarter
The Browns trail 25-21 with 4:09 to play in the game, and they are backed up against their own five-yard line. This is where big-time players make big-time plays.
Tuner calls a play-action pass, which has a compliment of short and deep routes. Gordon will run a 15-yard curl route.
Weeden sees Gordon come open and steps up to fire a bullet. This pass has to be perfect and must have velocity behind it because there are three defenders in the area.
The defender behind Gordon is already bearing down on him.
From the end zone film we can see Gordon come back to the throw and snag the ball just before the defender can get there. If he waits back on the route, it will be intercepted. One little step is the difference between a big play for the offense and a big play for the defense.
Not only did Gordon catch the pass, but also he turned up field and took it 95 yards for a touchdown. The fact that he came back to the football is a huge step in the evolution of this young, star wide receiver.
I am still not sure why Jacksonville refused to double-team Gordon for the entire game. They never even bothered to roll a safety over to his side of the field to try and discourage Weeden from throwing him the ball.
Either way, Gordon put on a show in yardage and receiving technique. His routes are crisp, he is fighting for passes and it seems he has learned what it takes to be consistently good at that position in the NFL.
Next week he will face the granddaddy of all defensive minds, Bill Belichick. If Gordon finds a way to put up huge numbers with an entire defense keying on him then he may be even more special than anyone had realized.