Gordon could present deep trouble for Patriots

Gordon could present deep trouble for Patriots
December 4, 2013, 9:45 am
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The Cleveland Browns don’t even bother running the ball anymore. They just throw it at Josh Gordon.
Over the past three games, their lead back Willis McGahee has been handed the ball 24 times. Gordon’s been targeted 47 times and has caught 29 of them for 623 yards and four touchdowns.
Through 10 games (he was suspended for the first two), Gordon’s caught 64 balls for 1,249 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s third in the NFL with 520 yards after the catch and has 13 catches of 25 yards or more.
“He’s a very explosive player,” Bill Belichick observed Tuesday. “He can get behind the defense. He has good speed down the field. He does a good job on underneath routes, inside routes, crossing patterns, curls, in-cuts, things like that of not only going in and catching them in traffic but he’s a strong guy, breaks a lot of tackles, bounces off guys. They have trouble getting him on the ground.”
That trouble stems from the fact Gordon is 6-foot-3, 225 and runs like a gazelle. Last week, in the Browns loss to Jacksonville, Gordon had a 95-yard touchdown when he ran past two Jaguar defenders who were either even with or just trailing him by a step.
“He makes a significant amount of yardage after he’s got the ball in his hands but he also makes a lot of yardage down the field too,” Belichick added. “He’s a really hard guy to defend because they do so many things with him and you have to defend him at all three levels of the defense. Depending on what coverage or what type of coverage you’re in, that can stress everybody, it’s not just really one guy.”
Norv Turner, the Browns offensive coordinator, has long utilized big receivers who can be targeted deep downfield and win 1-on-1 matchups.
While the Browns have uncertainty coming into the game at quarterback (Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden are coming back from concussions bringing untested Alex Tanney and newly-signed Caleb Hanie into the mix), whoever is in there will be going up top frequently.
The counter to those deep throws is getting pressure on whichever quarterback is in there before Gordon can come open.
“They have a solid offensive line that can give those guys time to run those 20, 22-yard in-cuts and plays like that down the field,” said Belichick. “It puts a lot of pressure on your defense if you play zone coverage, you have to drop way back there to cover those deep routes. Then that opens up the check-downs and crossing routes underneath. If you’re in man-coverage, you have to cover those guys for a long time. They’re pushing you deep, and you think they’re going deep and all the sudden they break it off at 18, 20, 22 yards, those type of routes that are deeper than normal and that’s hard for defensive backs to match those routes when they’re that extended. Norv loves those big receivers and he loves to bring them inside. They’re big targets and they go up and get the ball. They’re tough to stop.”