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Keys to Victory: What we're watching against the Chargers

  1. Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon will make a long-anticipated return to the field Sunday in Los Angeles. Gordon, who hasn't played in a regular season game in almost three years, was activated Thursday evening and set to start against the Chargers.  

"I think I can do everything that's within my power to do, everything that I have done before," said Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving in 2013.

"Anything I haven't done, hopefully, I can achieve it, really. I think the sky's the limit. I feel like I'm in great shape. I think I can just help out there to try to make a play and help put us in a position to win. There's a question mark on it, but I know I expect to do something positive."

It's been a long road for Gordon, who had been suspended for multiple violations of the league's substance abuse policy and a public struggle with addition. Once one of the game's most-electrifying players, the 26-year-old hopes he can return to form after a lengthy absence. So do the Browns, who believe he can have an immediate impact.

"When he's rolling and playing like we all know he can play, he's a force," head coach Hue Jackson said. "That's a good situation to have as an offensive coach."

  1. This weekend will be something of a homecoming for Jackson, who grew up in Los Angeles and was the star quarterback at local Dorsey High School. He made clear, however, that his return to Southern California will be bittersweet, as the Browns continue searching for their first win.  

"I'm being very honest, I've been asked about that quite a bit even by our players, and I'm not gonna kid any of you, not right now it's not," Jackson said when asked if he was looking forward to the trip. "To be the leader of a 1-26 team, that's not what I want to take to LA, but that's what we're going to take to LA. So that's not fun because we're trying to get to the other side of the ledger, but we are going to go there with that intent."

While Cleveland's lone win over the past season-and-a-half came against the Chargers on Christmas Eve in 2016, Jackson and players played down that triumph having any sort of bearing on this weekend's game.

"Let's be honest," Jackson said Wednesday. "We're are an 0-11 football team. I don't think they are looking for revenge, per se. That's a new regime there now. I think they're going about their business, working hard and they have something to play for."

  1. After a letdown this past weekend in Cincinnati, the Browns' typically-stout run defense will try to get back on track. Cleveland surrendered a season-high 152 rushing yards — including 114 to rookie running back Joe Mixon — in Sunday's 30-16 loss to the Bengals. Compounding matters was how Cincinnati entered the game averaging a league-worst 68 yards per game.

"Our guys can play better. I think they'll tell you that. That's not who we are or who we have been all year against the run," Jackson said. "We have to continue to get better."

The Browns will face Chargers running back Melvin Gordon this weekend in Los Angeles. Gordon, a first-round pick in 2015, ranks ninth in rushing yards (698), fifth in touchdowns (five) and sixth in rushing first downs (36).

  1. After an 0-4 start, the Chargers have won five of their past seven games, partly thanks to a pass rush that's tied for fourth-best in the NFL. Indeed, defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have terrorized opposing quarterbacks, totaling 19 sacks. Bosa, the former Ohio State star, has 10.5 through 11 games.

"It's not fair. That's not fair, they're good," Jackson said. "They are both really good players. They both go after the quarterback relentlessly. They've done it to every quarterback that they have played against, not just one in particular. They hit the quarterback. They're good at what they do. We have to do everything we can to combat that. It is a tall challenge, but we started towards that process today. We've some work to do to get ready. For three hours on Sunday, we have to be at our best."

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