Josh Gordon leads the NFL with 1,467 yards.
The Cleveland Browns receiver would be threatening Calvin Johnson’s single-season record if he hadn’t missed the first two games.
And if he had a franchise quarterback, Gordon might have been the league’s first 2,000-yard-plus receiver.
As it is, despite playing with three quarterbacks, Gordon is earning recognition for one of the best receiving seasons in NFL history.
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“I’m just really excited and happy with the way things have been going so far,” Gordon said in a phone interview. “I feel like I’m ahead of pace where I thought I would have been at this point.”
Gordon averages 123 yards per game, with a league-leading 19.8 yards per catch. He has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games, and his 95-yard touchdown is the longest in the league this season.
Gordon has seven 100-yard receiving games this season, including back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He set NFL records for most receiving yards in consecutive games (498), in three games (649) and in four games (774) before finally cooling off with 67 yards and a touchdown on three catches last week against the Chicago Bears.
“Confidence is all you really need to go out there and match the other team’s best on defense and go head to head for four quarters and try to come out on top,” he said. “The experience level factors in there, but regardless I just want to go out there and win.”
Gordon has a shot at Wes Chandler’s NFL record for average yards per game. Chandler averaged 129 receiving yards per game in the strike-shortened 1982 season for the San Diego Chargers.
“At the end of the season, I think any records I get, I’ll be more than happy to have considering the long list of legendary wide receivers who have played the game,” Gordon said. “It’s definitely an honor and a blessing. I’ll be happy with anything I get.”
Gordon, suspended twice at Baylor for marijuana use and finally kicked out of school, missed the first two games of this season after a positive drug test.
“I’m just disappointed I didn’t get to go out there and play those two games to help my team win,” Gordon said. “That really hurt me the most. I feel as though I can really contribute a lot and coming back that third game, it was a lot of motivation, motivation for how I’m playing today.”
Gordon, a second-round supplemental pick last year, had 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie last season. He has 74 receptions and nine touchdowns this season.
It isn’t supposed to be that easy for young receivers, but Gordon has made it look easy.
“It’s been far from easy. That’s for sure,” Gordon, 22, said. “A lot of work goes into it.”
Gordon’s name was mentioned in trade rumors before the deadline, but he is “glad” he still is in Cleveland to be part of the rebuilding process. The Browns are expected to draft a quarterback, who will be greeted warmly by Gordon.
One of the league’s best receivers could stand alone next year.
“I’ve heard some of it, but I definitely don’t really give it any mind,” Gordon said of hearing his name among the game’s elite receivers. “Those guys have been playing seven, eight years now. I’ve barely scratched the surface, barely gotten into the game. Maybe a few years from now we can discuss that, but right now I’m just happy to be mentioned in the same sentence with those guys.”
Michael Bennett wasn’t the biggest-name pass-rusher the Seattle Seahawks signed this off-season. He isn’t even the biggest-name NFL player in his family. His younger brother, Bears tight end Martellus, is better known.
Yet, the former Texas A&M standout, who has only three starts this season, arguably is the best defensive lineman on his team and the best player in his family.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I’m playing,” Bennett said in a phone interview. “I’m competing, and I’m making plays. It’s cool not starting and everything. We have a good rotation going. One of the key things you learn when you come here is that this is a team, and they count on all of us.”
Bennett ranks fourth-best among 4-3 defensive ends, according to Pro Football Focus, behind only St. Louis’ Robert Quinn, Miami’s Cameron Wake and Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson. He ranks ahead of teammate Cliff Avril, whom Sports Illustrated had as the top free agent in 2013.
Avril leads the team with 8.0 sacks. Bennett has 7.5 sacks, 24 tackles and a forced fumble. The Seahawks have 40 sacks as a team.
“Our defensive front is the best in football,” Bennett said. “We think we’re the best defense in the NFL, too.”
Bennett, who has played every position along the defensive line this season, returned to Seattle, where he began his career as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He signed with the Seahawks for two reasons — to reunite with Dan Quinn, Seattle’s defensive coordinator who was Bennett’s defensive line coach his rookie season, and to win a Super Bowl title.
“I think [Quinn] was a big part of my decision to come here,” said Bennett, who spent four seasons in Tampa Bay. “I knew he could help me make the most of my skills as a pass rusher. And then, just to have a chance to win. That was important.”
Bennett is hoping to play Chicago in the playoffs, so he can meet his brother on the field again. The two first opposed each other when Martellus was with the Dallas Cowboys and Michael was in Tampa Bay.
“I think it would be good to play against my brother,” Bennett said. “I talk to him about it all the time.”
Big brother is making a name for himself.