Inside the return of Josh Gordon

We’ve been waiting — some more patiently than others — hoping against our better judgement that maybe, just maybe, the best Browns receiver since 1999 would make his way back to the organization. Although there were some dark days in the story of Josh Gordon, it seems as though the player has found his best path in life, and I couldn’t be happier for the man.

What comes with a mentally and physically healthy Gordon is a pure freak of nature who can make 20 yards disappear faster than just about any human lacing them up on a football field. Gordon has the raw ability at the wide receiver position to rival just about any player who has suited them up at the position. The excitement around the fan base couldn’t have been higher, and on Sunday, he didn’t disappoint.

In all, Gordon went for four catches on 11 total targets for 85 yards on the day. Now, while on the surface that doesn’t sound overwhelmingly successful consider this:

The chargers have been among the league’s best stopping the pass in 2017. Gordon was also being tailed by PFF’s (Pro Football Focus) highest graded corner this year in Casey Hayward. He was able to separate when needed, was sharp in and out of his breaks, and genuinely looked like a guy who hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to game action.

Following the game, Hayward stated that he didn’t get film on Gordon until Saturday, and compared it to cramming for an exam. “I think I got a B+,” he said of the overall effort.

For the day Gordon averaged 2.83 yards per route run. Let’s take a look at his catches in this one.

Q-1 14:54 9-yard reception

Gordon started the Browns offensive efforts with this nine yard catch out of the slot in a 2×2 set. Given Gordon’s ability to make plays from any position, seeing him in the slot was a welcome sight. Easy to see there was zero rust after making this catch.

Q-2 3:35 9-yard reception

Another 2×2 combo route from Gordon. This time a square in that catches Hayward off guard and allows him to work inside underneath the Chargers second level coverage. Gordon always did heavy damage on long drag routes and crossing concepts.

Q-2 2:56 26-yard reception

In traditional Gordon form he wins a one on one go route against Hayward and goes up to high point the ball for DeShone Kizer. It’s no secret Kizer needs to be able to trust his wide receivers to go get the ball like we see here.

Q-4 2:08 39-yard reception

This is Gordon’s final catch and probably most impressive as he bullies Casey Hayward for a 39-yard gain that is about 12 yards further than it should have been thanks to a deadly stiff arm from Gordon. The yards after catch come so easily to Gordon.

Lastly we will take a look at the misses on the remaining targets Gordon received. The film isn’t friendly to Kizer as he missed Gordon several times on what could have been touchdown throws (two were without question). There were some obvious timing issues here, but the frustration on Gordon was obvious.

It was very conceivable to think Gordon could have gone for eight catches, around 150 yards, and two touchdowns. There were plenty of misses that could have been big plays. The good thing here is that Josh Gordon looked like Josh Gordon again. After the game Gordon noted, “I feel free when I’m out there, my business is out there, people know what I’m about and that’s a great feeling.” That was obvious to see. Gordon looked like he was truly in his happy place back on an NFL field.

The 26-year-old is still young enough to have a lasting impact on this franchise and this league if he can continue his comeback story. The great news for the Browns is that it looks like they have their number one threat back again. The hope is that they can find the long-term solution at the quarterback position to match up with the talent that is Josh Gordon.

  • RGB

    So, that’s what an actual WR is supposed to look like. Who knew?

  • Chris

    ” The film isn’t friendly to Kizer as he missed Gordon several times…”

    That’s a bit kind, but I’m OK to give it a couple weeks. Some help from the commentariat please… can you name many “franchise QB’s” (open to your own interpretation) who have overcome significant accuracy struggles early in their careers? Is this an area that can be improved over time?

  • Chris

    Corey Coleman was in uniform, right? I swear I saw him out there, but the box score disagrees.

    Ugh… dude. WR2 still needs to make an impact. 0 Rec on 4 Targets is unacceptable.


    I don’t know which emotion is stronger: amazement that Gordon can still be a legit NFL receiver at first go after THREE YEARS off, or anger that AFTER NOT HAVING PLAYED FOR THREE YEARS HE WAS STILL HEAD AND SHOULDERS THE BEST WR ON THIS ENTIRE ROSTER.

  • RGB

    I’m going with the latter.

  • Eric G

    Really hoping you’re right. Want to see him prove he can at least be serviceable so we don’t have to waste #1 or #7 on a QB

  • Harv

    With just a moderately accurate passer he would have gone over 100 yards easy, even against that inspired pro bowl-level
    corner. Trying to wrap my head around yesterday. He hasn’t played a skill/speed position in 3 years, against any competition, never mind at the highest level. This is probably our last glimpse of this meteor before it disappears again, this time forever. The replays of Josh will be like the bittersweet slo-mo Gale Sayers footage in “Brian’s Song,” pre-knee blow out. Ugh, screw Josh and his immaturity, his idiotic decisions laying that historic talent to waste. Screw his mom and brother and his absent father, his predatory hanger-ons and agents. Screw addiction. Not sure I’ve ever seen a more perfectly talented athlete piss it away like this.

  • RGB

    And somebody is going to sign him for a dump truck of cash.
    Just not the Browns.

  • akzipper

    The Browns are going to be hesitant to sign him to an extension. I could see them trying to flip him for draft picks or even just letting him walk. I doubt he’s very happy being in Cleveland and would like a fresh start too. Not to mention his business manager seems a bit shady. Unfortunately letting him go would be the worst decision this team has made since 99.

  • MartyDaVille

    Oh, they will most definitely spend the #1 on a QB. Whether or not it’s a(nother) waste is TBD.

  • mddawg

    Why would they? Sashi’s on record stating they weren’t in a position to release Josh due to his talent. He’ll be offered an extension but whether he stays is what’s questionable.

  • Garry_Owen

    He’d be the best WR on probably 30 rosters, so no need to be that mad about it.


    Of course there’s a need. What else am I going to do with my torchfork?

    In all seriousness, it’s not so much that “Pro Bowl player turns out to be better than most at his position” so much as it was glaringly obvious how bad the rest of our WR corps is that Gordon could essentially come in off the street three weeks ago and instantly be THAT. MUCH. BETTER. than all of them.

  • Garry_Owen

    Understood; but again, he could come off of the street and be “that much better” than all of the WRs on tons of rosters. He’s truly that good.

    But your torchfork has a valid place aimed at the WR corps, for sure. Throw/fire away.

  • JM85

    I was very impressed with Gordon yesterday. He was in great shape. I hope this continues.


    Torchfork is the best bang for one’s buck in the NE Ohio area.

  • Chris

    I’m not holding my breath… I just recognize that it must be difficult for Josh and DeShone to look sharp together on Day 1.

  • Harv

    I don’t mean someone else will sign him. I mean he’ll be suspended again, probably permanently.

  • tsm

    Great question – it is the most important one.

  • Jaker

    So happy for Josh to be back there, not only as a Browns fan who is desperate to see our best target in the new browns era back, but also as someone who knows what this guy went through to get back here. proud of him for making and taking the proper channels to get back to this.

    now, let’s sign him to a monster deal. i can’t imagine him playing elsewhere.

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