MINNEAPOLIS – The trade of running back Trent Richardson might not be the last one the Browns make this season.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that the Browns are fielding offers for and are open to trading receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. According to Schefter, at least one team has made a quality offer for Gordon.
Gordon is Cleveland’s No. 1 receiver and returns today from a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
ESPN contributor Adam Caplan, citing a source, reported Gordon’s been on the trade block for several weeks and that CEO Joe Banner wants him out.
Banner said after the Richardson trade Wednesday – to Indianapolis for a first-round pick in 2014 – he didn’t plan to make anymore moves. But he left the door open.
“I don’t anticipate that happening,” he said on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike. “But if you’d asked me a week ago did we expect to trade Trent, I would’ve said no. I don’t think that will happen and that isn’t the plan or agenda right now.”
Apparently, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas isn’t on the being-shopped list. NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported this morning “several teams” called the Browns about Thomas but were told he isn’t on the block.
Little was demoted this week from starter after dropping four passes in the first two games. He led the team in receptions in his first two seasons, with 61 in 2011 and 53 in 2012.
Schefter also reported the Browns covet Texans free-agent-to-be running back Ben Tate, who’s 25 years old. He’s stuck behind Pro Bowler Adrian Foster, but has 1,369 yards, a 5.3 average per carry and six touchdowns in 28 games and two starts.
Defensive end Ahtyba Rubin (calf) is active for the first time this season and expected to start. He joins a defense that is tied for fourth in the NFL, allowing 59.5 rushing yards a game. He was limited in practice during the week and listed as questionable on the injury report.
Right guard Shawn Lauvao is inactive and will miss his third straight game following arthroscopic ankle surgery Aug. 9. He returned to practice last week in a limited role and could be back next week against the Bengals.
The other Browns inactives: quarterback Brandon Weeden (sprained right thumb), outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle), offensive linemen Patrick Lewis and Martin Wallace, tight end Keavon Milton and defensive end Armonty Bryant.
Oniel Cousins will make his third straight start at right guard after struggling in the first two losses.
Brian Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius graduate, will start in place of Weeden.
(Three points of interest in today’s game)
SERVE AND PROTECT
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for the embattled offensive line that has allowed 11 sacks and 17 additional quarterback hits in the two opening losses. The Browns are ranked last in Profootballfocus.com’s pass-blocking efficiency rating.
The Vikings have only one sack in their two losses, but ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison are dangerous coming off the edge. Allen leads the league since his rookie year of 2004 with 118 sacks, including 22 in 2011, a half-sack off the NFL record. He had 12 sacks in 2012, his sixth straight year with double digits – but doesn’t have any in two games against the Browns. Robison had a career-best 8.5 sacks last year and returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown last week.
“He’s very crafty. He’s very fast, athletic, runs really well and he doesn’t have many weaknesses,” left tackle Joe Thomas, who’s struggled along with the rest of the line, said of Allen.
The Vikings ends are especially tough at home. The crowd noise inside the dome slows the offensive line for a split-second off the snap, and the turf speeds up the rush. Another bad sign for the Browns is Oniel Cousins will start again at right guard, as Shawn Lauvao is a week away from returning. Cousins has been dominated in the two games.
Is it too much to ask receiver Josh Gordon to save the sputtering offense? Yes, but that’s the state of the Browns. And Gordon won’t even have Brandon Weeden’s big arm to help stretch the field.
Gordon’s potential value to the offense was obvious during his two-game suspension. Norv Turner’s vertical passing attack stayed horizontal and Greg Little demonstrated again he’s not a No. 1 wideout. (Little was demoted and won’t start today after dropping four passes in two weeks. Davone Bess will take his place.)
Gordon says he’s focused and knows he can’t afford another screw-up. Sending a jolt through the offense would go a long way with his bosses.
“It’s definitely vital for me to come back and make as big an impact as I can, help out the team in any way possible,” he said. “We know that’s a big deal to have that sense of urgency on offense to make some plays. That’s what I’m going to try to come back and help do.”
Barkevious Mingo’s NFL debut was worth the wait. After missing a month with a bruised lung, he opened his career with a sack on his first play. He played 24 more snaps on defense and 10 on special teams, displaying the speed and motor that made him the No. 6 pick. He batted down a pass, almost blocked a punt and drew two holding penalties.
Mingo must keep it up. His playing time would’ve increased anyway, but with Quentin Groves out with a high ankle sprain, Mingo is the only option at outside linebacker behind Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard.
The Browns’ best hope for a victory is a dominant effort by the front seven that includes forced turnovers. A strip-sack of Christian Ponder or a rushed pass that turns into an interception would be the perfect follow-up for Mingo.
To live up to his draft status, Mingo will need to make a difference in the biggest situations. The Browns have given up 31 points in the second half after just six in the first half through two games, and have allowed half of the third downs to be converted in both losses. The defense will never be great with those numbers.
Quarterbacks who will have started a game for the Browns since 1999 once Brian Hoyer takes the first snap today.
Games played with the Browns by running back Trent Richardson before he was traded Wednesday.
Practice with Browns for running back Willis McGahee, who will play today; NFL carries for Bobby Rainey, who will also see time at running back.
PETRAK’S PREDICTION: No Trent Richardson, no Brandon Weeden, still no wins for Chudzinski. Vikings 23, Browns 14.