Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interview sessions …
Mystery still unraveling: We probably won’t get the final word on the mysterious usage of Josh Gordon in the Pittsburgh game until coordinator Todd Haley meets with media on Thursday.
Gordon said he was “definitely” surprised he started the game after coach Hue Jackson said he would not. Gordon thought he would be utilized in the three-tight end package during the first series, but not on the first play. He said he found out he would start the game “right before” the offense took the field.
“One of the coaches mentioned it in pre-game. I wasn’t too sure about it. It didn’t make much sense at the time,” Gordon said. “Right before the offense went out, they told me to go out there and I’m like, ‘alright.’”
Gordon wound up playing 69 offensive snaps, but was targeted only three times by quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the game that ended in a 21-21 tie. Another ball thrown his direction resulted in a pass interference call on Artie Burns. Gordon felt he was being used early essentially as a decoy.
“I went out there and served my purpose, whether that be to distract the safety, get somebody else open,” he said. “I didn’t even think about the targets until somebody mentioned them after the game. I was just going to keep on running till I got the opportunity.”
Meantime, the Saints, whom the Browns play Sunday in New Orleans, targeted Michael Thomas, their star receiver, 17 times. He caught 16 – a club record – for 180 yards in the Saints’ 48-40 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We can do a better job of getting him the ball and getting him opportunities to make plays. That starts with myself,” Taylor said.
Jackson appears to be getting annoyed with questions about the Gordon mixup – he insisted Gordon wouldn’t start and admitted surprise when he did.
“Last week is last week,” Jackson said. “I can’t go back and undo the Pittsburgh game. What we can do is move forward, and we have to put the ball in our guys’ hands this week and give them an opportunity to make plays. That is what the offense is designed to do, and that is what we are going to try and accomplish.”
Incidentally, Taylor said he was not surprised when Gordon showed up in the huddle for the first play in the Pittsburgh game.
“No, I was not. How could I be surprised? I know the game plan,” Taylor said.
Ogbah not ruled out yet: Jackson said on Monday that defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah would miss “some time” with an ankle injury. Although Ogbah did not practice on Wednesday, Jackson would not rule him out from Sunday’s game in New Orleans.
But Chris Smith is gearing up for more playing time in Ogbah’s place. Smith, a free agent pickup from the Bengals who has lined up everywhere on the defensive front, played 57 snaps (out of 89) against the Steelers.
“I feel good [about the opportunity],” Smith said. “You hate to see a guy go down. It’s next-man-up mentality. I’m having more reps on first and second down, instead of going in on third down like I’m used to doing. I’m just getting my body ready and mentally prepared.”
Smith was an under-radar free agent signing and was hardly mentioned in the same breath as Myles Garrett and Ogbah in the preseason. But now the value of acquiring him will be felt.
“When they brought me in, I knew I’d be a rotational guy. I mess with them [Garrett, et al] and say, ‘You’all get the flash and I get the mud,’” Smith said with a laugh. “That’s what I do, I put my head down work, and whatever happens happens.”
Brees’ shoutout: Drew Brees is in his 13th season in New Orleans and will eventually be enshrined in Canton because of his accomplishments as a quarterback for the Saints.
But he started his career with the San Diego Chargers and he attributed Marty Schottenheimer for having a great influence on his career.
“Marty’s probably one of the guys that’s had the biggest influence on my career, without question,” Brees said of the former Browns coach. “He coached me for four years with San Diego. Man, I respect him so much. Just taught me a lot about how to lead, how to prepare.
“He was an intense, hard-nosed football coach, so each and every day you had to come into the building ready to work. He expected a lot out of us and out of his quarterbacks too. I appreciated that. At times it was hard on me. I got benched three times during that period of time, too, you know. Sometimes you learn things the hard way.
“I loved the man. He had a big influence on my career and my life.”
Schottenheimer, 74, lives in Charlotte, NC. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011.