The crash-course education of Josh Gordon continues.
Whether it pays off in time for the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 season remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: His quarterback fully expects him on the field for the season opener Sept. 9 against Philadelphia.
“He’s gonna be out there,” Brandon Weeden said Friday. “He’s got way too many tools and he’s way too of a player not to be out there.”
With all respect to the Browns rookie quarterback, talent does not equate to being an NFL player.
Gordon needs to learn the intricacies about what it means to be a professional receiver, and what it means to simply be a pro. He’s a likeable, straight-up guy who’s working at it; it’s just a lengthy learning curve for a guy who hasn’t played in two years, a guy who was a part-time player in college when he did play. And a guy who has admitted to failing three drug tests.
One route called in both the Browns preseason games illustrates the distance Gordon is from where he needs to be.
The route calls for Gordon to go a precise number of yards up the field, then stop and come back to the outside for a reception. Twice, Weeden threw the ball where it was supposed to be. Twice, Gordon failed to come back properly, which allowed the defensive back to jump the route and nearly take the ball back for a touchdown.
Both times Browns preseason TV analyst Bernie Kosar was apoplectic as he explained that the failing fell on the receiver, not the quarterback.
Kosar made clear a long time ago how successful plays work in the NFL. In Kosar’s vernacular, the job of the quarterback is to put the ball where it has to be, and the job of receiver is to win and be there.
Precision matters. Ten yards does not mean 12, and a comeback means a comeback. Turning and stopping is an invitation to a turnover.
Gordon took the route too deep, then did not come back. The result: What looked like an ugly pass.
“The timing of that route — the DB made a great play on it – but it’s a yard or two too long,” Weeden said. “So if he runs it at the right depth maybe it’s a completion vs. almost a pick six. Just little things. Getting on the same page.
“This game is so tough a yard or two here or there can determine the outcome.”
In truth, those two yards are not little things. Braylon Edwards had amazing talent, but his routes often lacked precision, which left the quarterback looking bad throwing to spots when Edwards was not there.
Gordon has to get this right. Because his quarterback has to know he’ll be where he’s supposed to be.
“It’s all trust,” Weeden said. “On his part and on mine. You saw what happened, two weeks in a row we ran similar type routes and had almost the same outcome.”
Weeden said he had a lengthy talk with Gordon on the field before the Green Bay game and told Gordon his expectations. Weeden said it was positive, so it sounded like a pep talk as much as anything.
Against the Packers, Gordon had two inside receptions, but he also had a drop and the poor route on the comeback.
“That was my first read and it was there,” Weeden said. “He had cushion and it was the exact look we wanted. I’m not going to change my reads and how I feel. I trust Josh. I’m not going to work the other side of the field because it’s him and the same thing happened the week before. I can’t do that.
‘We have to be on the same page. We can’t continue to do it. He’s a rookie, just like I am. He’s learning. He’s trying to play fast. There’s going to be mistakes. You have to find a way to minimize those.”
Because a dropped interception in preseason could easily be a defensive touchdown during the season.
The Browns, Weeden said, are “throwing (Gordon) in the fire.”
That may work, it may not. Greg Little was thrown in as a rookie after sitting out his senior season at North Carolina. He had good and bad moments when he caught a lot of balls but dropped too many. Gordon looks like a guy who has the potential to drop more and catch fewer.
Unless he learns fast.
“He’s got to be in there,” Weeden said. “He’s too good a player to be sitting on the sidelines.”
The Browns gave up next year’s second-round draft pick and signed Gordon to a contract that reportedly had $3.8 million in guarantees.
The high draft pick and the contract drew a lot of raised eyebrows around the league. Given the Browns schedule and expectations, the pick might be no lower than 40. The contract is the kind given to a guy with years of college experience even though he was taken as a project out of the supplemental draft.
“There’s certain things he does extremely well,” Weeden said. “So we’re going to try to tailor those things to him to put the ball in his hands. We’re not going to do stuff to make him feel uncomfortable, where he’s out of his element.”
Gordon’s talent may carry the day in the long run.
Keep in mind that NASA did get to Mars. It just took seven or eight months.