Josh Gordon only had one catch for the Cleveland Browns when they met the Ravens for the first time. Sunday, when the AFC North foes rematch in Cleveland, the receiver will play a far more vital role.
So will Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who was serving a suspension from the NFL for taking a banned substance when they lost 23-16 on Sept. 27 in Baltimore.
That meeting represents the last solid performance for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 356 yards. He has averaged less than 190 yards passing per game in his last three outings since then.
Having Haden there gives Cleveland more options if Flacco starts to find a groove, though that's no guarantee considering how inconsistent the Ravens' offense has been away from home.
Flacco opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the second quarter of that first game. While Smith is the big-play deep threat in Baltimore, it was Anquan Boldin who gave the Browns fits. He had nine catches for a season-high 131 yards in that game.
"We play a mixture of coverages," Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. "We'll play zone and man, and we pressure in different ways. You can't always just match Joe up, but if there is a receiver that we feel like warrants being matched, then of course we have the ability to do it."
Gordon, an undrafted rookie, had one catch for 16 yards and was easily forgettable. But he now leads the the Browns with 17 catches for a team-high 379 yards and four touchdowns. Gordon's totals tops all NFL rookies.
Injuries to key players and too many dropped passes by Cleveland's receivers has pushed him into the rotation. He has been referred to as "the kid from Baylor" several times this week because even the Ravens have trouble remembering his name. The Browns have won two of their last three games after opening the season 0-5.
"Their receivers are getting better. The kid from Baylor is really improving and is becoming a big-play threat for them," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They’re just a good, young team, and they’re on the rise.”
Kick off your Friday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.
1. The Ravens are hopeful Earl Thomas will be a leader for their new defense which Thomas called "very complex." "This defense is very complex compared to what we were doing in Seattle,” Thomas said to Ravens media. “We were just playing Cover-3 all the time. Now, we’re making calls on the fly. That’s the biggest adjustment for me.”
Additionally, Thomas told media members after practice that he's made "fast friends" with quarterback Lamar Jackson. "He's a very funny guy, I don't know if you all know that," Thomas said.
2. Speaking of Lamar Jackson, he reportedly had his best day of practice so far this offseason according to Ravens media. Jackson's throws looked much better and he was quick in the pocket.
July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.
The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.
Credit: Baltimore Ravens and Rotoworld for news points.
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Like most athletes, Robert Griffin III was empathetic towards Kevin Durant when he first went down, taking to Twitter on Monday night to voice his concern.
Today, the Ravens' veteran quarterback told ESPN's The Undefeated that he's all too familiar with Durant's decision to play and subsequent injury. RG3 likened it to his own brief playoff stint in 2013. Just four weeks removed from an injury to a knee that required reconstructive surgery in college, RG3 started – only to get hit late in the fourth and watch both his season and career come to a screeching halt.
But that's not how RG3 views it.
"I was looking at it like I'm out for here for my brothers. I'm out here for my team. And that was the only place I wasnted to be."
And Griffin doesn't believe he's alone in that thought process, suggesting it was KD's mindset ahead of Game 5 as well.
"Most of us are built to fight. So whenever we get a situation where we’re a little injured or a little banged-up, our first reaction isn’t to get out of there and rest. Our first reaction is to figure out how we can keep going. That’s what makes a guy like Kevin Durant great."
It remains to be seen whether KD's recovery will be smoother than RG3's. The former Heisman Trophy winner never came close to matching his breakout rookie season, eventually losing his starting job in Washington in 2014.
Durant will miss all of next season, meaning the former Montrose Christian star's next NBA appearance would be as a 32 year-old.