BEREA - With the injury bug hitting hard, the Browns might have trouble fielding enough receivers for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.
The way things have gone through the first four games, that might not be a bad thing. With dropped passes taking on more importance on the statistical sheet with each passing week, lining up in a fullhouse backfield with two tight ends might be the way to go.
That won't happen, of course, which means coach Pat Shurmur needs to come up with some plan to compensate for the possible absence of receivers Mohamed Massaquoi, Joshua Cribbs and Travis Benjamin. Massaquoi missed last Thursday's game against the Ravens with a hamstring pull. Cribbs suffered a concussion and Benjamin suffered an undisclosed injury against the Ravens.
Shurmur was secretive when asked the status of the three, relying on the expected day-to-day prognosis. If none of the three are able to play, look for extended playing time for rookie Josh Gordon and Jordan Norwood.
Gordon was considered a project when the Browns won his playing rights in a supplemental draft by giving up a second-round pick in the 2013 draft. He's looked every bit like a raw rookie, having caught just seven passes for 93 yards.
"Every practice and every game opportunity he (Gordon) is learning something," Shurmur said. "He's just needs to continue to learn. I think he'll find a way to be productive here in a way that we expected."
Gordon admits to being awestruck in the opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. He had been used as the third or fourth receiver, but his time picked up with Massaquoi out last week.
"The battle of attrition with a lot of guys in the league falling in and out and getting injured," Gordon said. "The guys that are behind them like me and a lot of younger guys feel the pressure to step up and make big-time plays. When our number is called we have to step up to the plate."
Quarterback Brandon Weeden has noticed an improvement in Gordon's performance level, particularly in his ability to adjust to the speed of the NFL.
"He's getting better," Weeden said. "I think his head was spinning a little bit and he was getting a feel for things. He's playing a lot faster. I've had several talks with him. Just kind of what I expect, what we expect and what the coaches expect. He's a guy that's going to have to make plays. He's a mismatch at 6-4 and 225."
Gordon should see an increase in his repetitions this week, which could be crucial in his development.
"It takes a lot more repetition and a lot more practice to help you think less and play without even a hesitation," Gordon said.
Gaining more confidence appears to be the largest obstacle to being successful on a consistent basis for Gordon. That comes with realizing that he can perform with the elite players.
"We've played the best of the best; the top-tier athletes," Gordon said. "At this point I'm looking past that and trying to get where I need to be. I feel I can hold my own and be placed among the elite level of receivers. Making opportunities and capitalizing on them is the biggest thing."
INJURY REPORT: Safety T.J. Ward had surgery on a broken thumb but Shurmur expects him to play against the Giants.
BAD DAY: Norwood tweeted that he didn't think he played well against the Ravens. He had all four of his catches in the game along with what appeared to be two drops.
"It was plain to see that I would have liked to have played better," Norwood said. "That's why we come back out here and have another game and hopefully turn those things around."