If you don't play fantasy football you might not know it, but Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is quickly emerging as one of the league's best receivers.
The 22-year-old Baylor product is leading the NFL in yards per reception (19.8) and receiving yards (1,467) in just his second season. And oh, by the way, he's played in only 12 games this year after sitting out Weeks 1 and 2 with a suspension.
"Big, strong, fast guy," head coach Rex Ryan said of the 6'3", 225-pound wideout, "but he's physical and his run after the catch is the thing that jumps out at me."
In fact, his 8.4 yards after catch according to Stats Inc. lead all wide receivers this season.
It's no wonder Ryan compared him to Texans WR Andre Johnson, while CB Antonio Cromartie likened him to Bears WR Brandon Marshall and probable future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens.
"It's a challenge just from the standpoint of the way they try to use him," Cromartie said. "They try to get him off the ball where guys can't get their hands on him or try to get him underneath routes where you can't really get your hands on him at all, too. It's a point of just understanding what they're trying to do, how they try to use him."
Of course, the attempt to learn your opponents' tendencies works both ways, but as of a few hours ago, Gordon wasn't too certain of how Cromartie might play him on Sunday.
"I guess he's kind of hanging off a lot of players this year," Gordon told the Jets media via conference call this morning. "He's not really giving too much in the press, like he used to be. But I'm not really sure how he'll play me. He's been in the league a long time. He's just one of those veteran guys trying to keep on playing the game, but he's a great competitor, he's really good. I've got the utmost respect for a guy like him and I know I'm going to have to play my A-game because I know he will."
The Browns have lost five straight games since their Week 10 bye, but don't mistake that for signs of a struggling offense. Quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell have combined to average 323 passing yards and 23.2 points per game during their current losing streak, and Gordon's been better than ever having scored at least one touchdown in all five games and eclipsing the 200-yard mark twice in that time.
They're a team that throws the ball twice as often as they run, and with a dynamic weapon like Josh Gordon, our secondary will have to find a way to limit the damage through the air.
"Coach still wants to run the ball on them," Gordon said today, "but exploiting their secondary is something we're pretty good at doing, I believe, and at getting down the field and stretching the field on teams. I think that's exactly how we're going to try and convert most of our big plays and get down field."
It'll be up to Cro and Co. to stop that from happening.