|Dropped passes have become a recurring problem for Greg Little and the Browns' receivers. (US Presswire)|
The problems affecting the Browns wide receivers at this point in the season fall into three categories. They are either dropping passes, underachieving or they are hurt.
The first group includes Greg Little and Jordan Norwood, who combined for four of the seven drops Thursday night in Baltimore. Little muffed one in the end zone in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.
Rookie Josh Gordon is the chief underachiever, though his inexperience even at the college level gives him a bit of a pass. He has caught just seven passes for 93 yards in four games.
The biggest concern at the moment, however, is injuries. Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), Josh Cribbs (concussion) and rookie Travis Benjamin (undisclosed) all missed practice on Monday. If they are unable to play Sunday against the New York Giants, look for Norwood and Gordon to receive increased reps and perhaps for the team to activate practice squad receiver Josh Cooper.
Cooper could be a welcome sight to quarterback Brandon Weeden. The two hooked up often at Oklahoma State.
Weeden isn't complaining about his receivers dropping passes, despite the fact that he would have thrown for more than 400 yards against the Ravens on Thursday night if they had consistently hung on to the ball.
"As a quarterback, you understand there are going to be drops," he said. "If it's a mental thing, a focus thing, you have to address it. But with these guys, I don't think it is."
The injury to Massaquoi allowed Norwood to be activated for the first time this season last Thursday. He caught four passes for 56 yards, but he was charged with one drop and could have had at least one more. Norwood has shown the ability to separate from cornerbacks. He was happy with how well he got open against the Ravens and didn't feel his inactivity the first three weeks affected his performance. But he knows that dependability will keep him on the field.
"It's plain to see that I would have liked to have played better," said Norwood, who could also serve as a kickoff and punt returner if Cribbs and Benjamin remain out. "Every pass that's thrown to me, I feel I should catch."
Gordon's problem hasn't been drops, but rather route-running and proving to the coaches that he deserves more reps. The injuries to Massaquoi, Cribbs and Benjamin could have him starting aside Little against the Giants.
"It takes a lot of reps to make you think less and play without hesitation," Gordon said. "I'm feeling more confident and comfortable with each snap. Seeing different defenses makes me feel more comfortable with it and more familiar with it. ... I would like to be placed among the elite level of wide receivers, but it's a matter of making an opportunity for yourself and capitalizing on it."
Coach Pat Shurmur is being particularly patient with Gordon, who played one full season of college football at Baylor in 2010 and lost last season to a drug suspension (for marijuana) before being taken in the 2012 supplemental draft. The Browns gave up their 2013 second-round pick for him.
"With every practice and every game he's learning something new," Shurmur said. "He'll find a way to be productive in ways we expect soon. He's learning to do everything to our standards."
Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from CBSSports.com RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.