BEREA - Although he's still learning how to be a NFL receiver, rookie Josh Gordon continues to exhibit the best set of raw pass-catching skills in camp.
Gordon made the highlight-reel play of practice Monday when he jumped high on a deep fade route to pull the ball away from defensive back James Dockery. It was the kind of play that makes coach Pat Shurmur realize that he could have something special to work with in Gordon, who sat out last season at Utah after transferring from Baylor because of failed drug tests.
"Josh is an example of somebody trying to get it right because there are a lot of things running parallel for Josh right now," Shurmur said. "The grind of training camp. The newness of playing the game again. Then, of course, learning our system and then facing competition.
"The last couple of days he's practicing faster. He's learning how to do it better in practice. As we all know, if you see it here then it will translate to the game."
Gordon's biggest problem is learning how to read and react to the coverage techniques of cornerbacks. Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, the color analyst on preseason telecasts, was critical of the poor comeback routes Gordon ran in each of the two preseason games.
"The other thing about this process going parallel is us getting used to the routes he runs well and then featuring them more," Shurmur said. "I would agree with Bernie. Running up and coming back isn't the best thing he's doing, but he does a good job of running up and keeping running."
STARTING GIG: Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson has made strides since camp opened. He struggled against the Detroit Lions in the first preseason game but played better last week against the Green Bay Packers.
Assuming Scott Fujita's three-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal holds up, Johnson is in line to start the season opener. Johnson could see more playing time beyond that if Fujita doesn't return soon from an injury that's sidelined him since the game against the Lions.
"I don't want to make any proclamations at this point, but I think he'll continue to improve," Shurmur said. "I thought that the young linebacking corps did an outstanding job against Green Bay."
NOT A CONCERN: Rookie defensive tackle John Hughes suffered a minor lower-leg injury during Sunday's practice and was sidelined Monday. He was replaced in the first-team rotation by rookie Billy Winn.
Hughes said after practice that the injury isn't serious and that he anticipates returning to practice soon. He's walking without a limp.
MORE LIKE IT: Monday's practice was much better than the lethargic effort staged Sunday. Quarterback Brandon Weeden was sharper on his throws and there were no glaring dropped passes.
TWO TO GO: Just two more practices are open to the public before the Browns break training camp. Both today's and Wednesday's practices are from 8:45-11:15 a.m.
CAMPING OUT: Gordon had the play of the day, but safety David Sims was the star of the day. Sims intercepted Weeden and Seneca Wallace in 7-on-7 drills. He returned the pick of Wallace for a touchdown Defensive back Antwuan Reed came up limping while running the field as a gunner on punt coverage. He grabbed the back of a leg before walking off the field Safety Ray Ventrone was an observer for a second straight day with a minor injury Weeden and Colt McCoy were both unable to produce points in two-minute possessions from midfield with the offense needing a touchdown. Both drives ended with unsuccessful Hail Mary passes.