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What the Browns can expect from Josh Gordon

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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