Gordon's return gives Browns different look
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns coach Mike Pettine noticed pass after pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer going in the same direction during practice - at one tall target.
Short throws, long ones, all toward the new guy, No. 12.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon returned from his 10-game suspension on Wednesday and Hoyer couldn't stop throwing the ball to him during practice.
''Like a kid with a new toy at Christmas,'' Pettine said.
Sunday could be another holiday for Hoyer when the Browns (6-4) visit the Atlanta Falcons (4-6), who have the NFL's worst pass defense and will have their hands full with Gordon, one of the game's most dangerous players looking to make up for lost time.
The Browns are expected to incorporate Gordon into their game plan, and although he hasn't played this season, cornerback Joe Haden said he wouldn't be shocked if the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder has a dazzling debut.
''It wouldn't surprise me if he went out there and had 250 (yards),'' Haden said.
It wouldn't surprise anyone - and fantasy football owners are fantasizing - about the Browns sending Gordon deep on the first play from scrimmage.
Hoyer wouldn't mind that. He called Gordon a ''freak athlete,'' saying Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson is the only player in Gordon's class.
''The things he can do at his size are remarkable, so I'm glad he's on our team,'' he said.
Pettine said Gordon reported being a ''a little sore'' following his first practice, which was held indoors as the Browns prepare to play in the Georgia Dome. There's a big difference between being in shape and being in football shape, which is why the Browns are trying to bring Gordon along slowly this week.
The Browns increased Gordon's workload on Thursday and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan came away impressed by how the 23-year-old looks despite the lengthy layoff. Gordon's route running was crisp and he's managed to stay up to speed with the details of Cleveland's offense despite not being on the field for a single play in 2014.
''You can tell he's been working while he's been away,'' Shanahan said. ''He's running good and stuff. We've had two practices on turf and we'll see how his body responds.''
Gordon's impact could be immediate. Last season, he returned from a two-game suspension and caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in a win over Minnesota. It was Hoyer's first start for the Browns and he targeted Gordon 19 times.
Gordon's presence will make defenses honest. Teams won't be able to position multiple defenders near the line of scrimmage because they'll likely need two players to cover Gordon, who led the league with 1,646 yards last season - in just 14 games.
''He's going to help in every way possible because you put him on the field,'' Hoyer said. ''You put No. 12 on the field, and the defense is going to have to see where he's at. How they want to play him, that's up to them.''
Hoyer hasn't had the luxury of throwing to anyone of Gordon's size this season, so he may take some risks and put the ball up where only Gordon can reach it.
Shanahan laughed when he was asked if Gordon fits in with his offensive scheme.
''He fits in great,'' he said. ''We love real good receivers.''
There aren't many better than Gordon, never mind a motivated Gordon.
Haden can appreciate Gordon's mindset heading into Sunday's game. Haden was suspended four games in 2010 and said the time away changed his attitude.
''Just being away from the game shows you how much you miss it and how much it means to you. I think J.G., he's just excited. He's happy,'' said Haden, who is close with Gordon. ''I see him smiling and it makes me happy just to know that he's back and just ready to ball.''
NOTES: Pettine has not ruled out starting LBs Karlos Dansby (knee) and Jabaal Sheard (foot) for Sunday's game. Pettine said Dansby is doing everything possible to play. ''For a guy like that, it's like not an option for him,'' he said. ''We'll have to tell him, `Literally, you can't go.' He's that type of player, and that's what you want. To me, it speaks to his character.'' ... TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) also missed practice.
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