Josh Gordon

What the Browns can expect from Josh Gordon

Browns fans got something to be thankful for yesterday as wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to practice. It’s not much, but with the season the Browns have had, this may call for a celebration.

With all of Gordon’s struggles with substance abuse, some fans may have forgotten just how good Gordon was as he has not played a game since 2014. In 2013, his last full season in the NFL, Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646 while catching 87 passes and scoring nine touchdowns.

The following season, Gordon only played in five games and caught 24 passes for 303 yards. Nothing special, but it was probably hard for Gordon to get in rhythm after missing the team’s first 10 games of the season. He just didn’t seem like himself that season.

Gordon was originally suspended for the entire 2014 season, but his suspension was reduced to 10 games due to the NFL’s new drug policy. He was later suspended for the final game of the season by the Browns for violating team rules.

Gordon was later suspended for the entire 2015 season and the first four games of the 2016 season. Just before the end of his 2016 suspension, Gordon entered a rehabilitation center and now appears to have his life together after struggling with drug and alcohol abuse for so long. An interview with Uninterrupted has fans believing Gordon is past his struggles with addiction for real this time.

But what can fans honestly expect to get from Gordon? He hasn’t played in an NFL game in almost three years. Sure, he may be in shape, but playing in a game and working out are not the same.

Let’s look into where Gordon is right now and see if he can provide some spark and hope for the Cleveland Browns.

First practice

It was Gordon’s first time practicing with the team since training camp in 2016. It was also his first regular season team practice since Dec. 26, 2014. He worked on some drills with the receivers and also did some work with the team despite not playing this week.

How did he look? According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, he looked trim, fit and agile. He caught short and deep balls and the only one he misses was when he slipped. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network that he looks like Josh Gordon again.

There aren’t too many players on the team that really know him since he has been out so long, but that hasn’t hindered their excitement in any way.

“It’s like Christmas,” Hue Jackson told the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday. “I get to open a new toy. I know what’s in that box, but I just want to see how good it is. It’s exciting that he’ll be back out there.”

After watching Gordon in practice, Jackson’s thoughts are still the same.

“He’s something. It was a good first day,” he said according to the Cleveland Browns Twitter. “He’s what I thought he was.”

Gordon’s shape

Nobody is going to debate whether Gordon ever had it in him or not. He led the league in receiving yards with Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer throwing to him. We have only seen production like that with poor quarterback play come from DeAndre Hopkins as of lately.

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon hasn’t lost a step based on looks. (Photo from Josh Gordon’s Instagram account @flash)

However, three years is a long time to be out of the league. Marshawn Lynch at 31 years old is struggling after only being removed from the league for a year. Plaxico Burress also struggled in a comeback attempt after missing two seasons. He was older at age 34 when he returned, but he was not the same player he was with the New York Giants.

Luckily for Gordon, he is still just 26 years old. It is also important to note that he is completely sober now. Gordon said in his interview that he was probably on something in every game he has played.

If he can do that while high or drunk, imagine what he can do sober and in the prime of his career. Gordon has been training with former Olympic gold medalist Tim Montgomery. Montgomery said Gordon has come a long way from when they first started working together according to Cleveland.com. He also told Uninterrupted that Gordon could be an olympic champion in the 400 meters if he trained for it.

You can look at Gordon and know he is in shape. He didn’t let himself go in rehab. He has still been working out and doing what he can to make his return to the NFL the best it can possibly be.

Can he help the Browns?

It is tough to blame head coach Hue Jackson or rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer for all the offensive problems. The Browns might have the lowest amount of talent on offense in the NFL right now. Backup running back Duke Johnson Jr. currently leads the team in receiving yards with 414. That says it all right there.

Other offensive “talent” includes Isaiah Crowell, Ricardo Louis, Kenny Britt, Rashard Higgins, Seth DeValve and David Njoku. Former first-round pick Corey Coleman is finally healthy now as well.

Gordon will no doubt be the top target on this team, which isn’t very hard to do. However, it is hard for receivers to make an impact on a team. Of course Gordon has succeeded with poor quarterback play before, but bringing wins to a bad team is another story. Even the great Randy Moss couldn’t make the Raiders a winner in his short stint in Oakland.

We have seen quarterbacks like Tom Brady make stars out of receivers like Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. You just don’t see it too much the other way around. Receivers only get so many targets a game, and under 10 plays a game to make an impact. The Browns went 4-12 despite Gordon’s great play

It is going to be a process in Cleveland. Even if Gordon ends up playing like he did, it is going to take a lot more to fix this team than a wide receiver. Fans who are worried about the Browns losing the first overall pick in the draft can rest easy.

 

Featured image by Joshua Gunter

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Fantasy football quarterback sleeper: Eli Manning

Last year, Eli Manning had a decent season. He threw 26 touchdown passes and had 4,027 passing yards. He was considered a top 10 fantasy quarterback. However, he finished well outside the top ten in points. But in 2017, there’s a lot of promise for Manning in fantasy and this year he is my quarterback sleeper.

The “ELI-te” Manning

For fantasy owners, Manning might not be on your list given his struggles last season when he finished as the No. 20 fantasy quarterback in standard leagues. There has only been one other time Manning has finished in the 20’s at quarterback which was in 2013.  But let’s not forget the past years of Manning such as 2014 and 2015 when he was a top 12 fantasy quarterback.

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by:cbssports.com)

In that two-year span, he was excellent in fantasy football. In 2014, he threw for 4,410 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The following year improved as he had 35 touchdowns and 4,436 passing yards and matched his interception total in 2014. He also had a six-touchdown game that year.

After having one of the worst seasons of his career in 2013, we saw Manning having maybe the best two seasons of his career. We have seen him rebound from a bad season and have a great season. Time and time again we saw Manning do well with less around him.

Manning in those two seasons had something he hadn’t had since 2012. He had a healthy No. 1 target in Odell Beckham Jr. His fantasy numbers started to improve when Beckham broke onto the scene. Beckham was the only reliable option when many parts of the Giants offense were inconsistent. Another part of his success was the change in offense with new plays and sets with new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

2016

In 2016, Manning didn’t have a bad year, he just didn’t have the success he had the previous two seasons. Even though the head coaching change put McAdoo in charge, the offense was still the same. He still had Beckham. Victor Cruz was finally healthy. They drafted another weapon in rookie Sterling Shepard. What was so different for Manning in 2016?

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Eli Manning (Photo by:giantswire.usatoday.com)

One major factor of his decline to some was the success of the defensive side of the ball. In the offseason, the Giants were spenders in free agency adding Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. They also brought back Jason Pierre-Paul. The defense was it’s best since 2011 when they reached the Super Bowl.

Parts of the defense came to life as these signings panned out in addition to Landon Collins improving to be a top safety in the league that season. Unlike 2014 and 2015, Manning didn’t have to come back in games forcing him to throw the football many times more then they would have liked to.

Another factor is the offensive line. The Giants have struggled protecting Manning. Ereck Flowers has been a bust, struggling at the left tackle position. He had a new right side in 2015 with Jon Jerry at guard and Bobby Hart at tackle. The offensive line struggled in the run game, something the Giants hadn’t had to worry about for a long time.

Some of his decline could be because of his age. He entered in his 12th season at age 35 and for some quarterbacks the strength and accuracy go away. Sure his numbers declined, but not drastically. I don’t think age was a factor for Manning. We have seen him have his best seasons over the age of 30 and his best seasons came when he was in his 10th and 11th seasons. 2016 may have not been his best but he led the Giants to the playoffs and he still produced a solid year.

optimism in 2017

There is reason to be excited about Manning in 2017. The Giants looked to offense in the offseason like they did last year on the defensive side.

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Brandon Marshall (Photo by:giants.com)

The Giants gave him a new weapon in free agency after signing Brandon Marshall. The positive about Marshall is that Manning hasn’t had a big receiver like him since Plaxico Burress.

In the past two seasons, Marshall has been in the top 10 in targets inside the 20-yard line. In 2015 he had a great fantasy year finishing third in points with 109 catches, 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also finished sixth in yards (97) and fifth in touchdowns (9) inside the 20-yard line.

Marshall could have the same success with Manning throwing him the ball becoming a new red zone target and sometimes taking coverage to open up other receivers.

Along with Marshall, the Giants also have Beckham and Shepard at receiver. This is probably their strongest group of receivers since their Super Bowl XLVI championship season with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.

He will also have an offensive weapon at tight end in rookie Evan Engram. Manning will have Shane Vereen back and Paul Perkins progressing in his sophomore year. Assuming that the offensive line holds up and the plethora of weapons pan out, Manning could have the potential to having a breakout fantasy year.

I expect Manning to have a bounce back seasons with all these additions. Although at 36 years old, one thing every fantasy owner can expect from Manning is consistency. He hasn’t missed a start in his 12-year career. He will also throw in the range of 25-30 touchdowns and have over 4,000 passing yards.

You should be able to get Eli Manning late in your fantasy drafts. You won’t have to reach for him, and you will enjoy the late-round rewards. Manning should rebound as a No. 1 fantasy quarterback in all formats.

 

Featured image from marketwatch.com

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