What should we really expect out of Josh Gordon?

Josh Gordon has been the talk of the Cleveland Browns this week and for good reason. The 0-11 club needs something positive to point towards, so having a wide receiver join them for the stretch run who once was among the best in the NFL is a boon as a source of optimism in a lost season. The fact that Gordon has battled his inner demons and won (at least for the moment) also adds a satisfying story of redemption to the entire saga.

There have been two arcs of narrative developing through his return. One side is Gordon’s multiple interviews and stories coming out that have detailed how many personal battles he has fought and been fighting since childhood. There is also a grave concern that those around him might be more focused on using Gordon’s status to make a few bucks than actually helping the man himself. The other story being crafted is noting a special case for the best shape of his life puff pieces by adding the gritty detail that if he is clean now, then he might be capable of more than he showed previously. Could Gordon recapture the magnificence of his early career? Could he help develop DeShone Kizer and the rest of the offense by giving opposing defenses a true playmaker to focus on?

The gambling industry is not being fooled by the framework.

Three receptions for 39 yards does not sound much for a player who once averaged 193 yards on seven receptions over a four game span. A player who averaged 118 yards on six receptions over the entire 2013 NFL season. During that season, Gordon only failed to eclipse the current Bovada numbers once. In his brief comeback of five games in 2014, Gordon pushed past those marks in four-of-five games. Fans of the Browns might even remember Gordon going for 87 yards and a touchdown on August 26 2016 in a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Viewed purely in the light of his past accomplishments, the over/under bar seems grossly favoring those who bet for him to clear such a low-standing hurdle.

No limited glimpse gives true justice to what Gordon is attempting to accomplish though. He reportedly has retained his world-class speed, but does he have the endurance to slog through even 30 snaps of a NFL game? Can he still beat press coverage without committing offensive pass interference? Will his grasp of the playbook be firm enough for Kizer to know and trust he will be where he throws the ball? Where is his mind at and can he handle being thrust back onto the field? Will he remain with a low catch percentage and will his penchant for not finishing off routes return?

Anyone claiming to have a firm grasp to how well this plays out on Sunday or the rest of the season is fooling you or themselves. All of these questions have no answers until Gordon steps out onto the field. Head coach Hue Jackson has noted Gordon must earn his role on the field, but he is also only battling the likes of Ricardo Louis and Bryce Treggs for playing time. So, it shouldn’t have been too surprising to hear that he won’t have a specific snap count limit or that Jackson responded this way when asked if he would start “Yeah, [Gordon]’s going to start! I’m surprised you would ask”

There is hope amongst the fan base (and team) he can reclaim at least part of what he once was. There is hope that he can keep his inner demons at bay and strive to stay in recovery rather than relapse.

Regardless of what it might mean for the Browns though, seeing Gordon’s redemption story succeed would be one of the biggest wins the team could accomplish this season. For his part, he is saying the correct things.

Gordon responded to where he is at by stating “I think I can do everything that is within my power to do, everything that I have done before. Anything I haven’t done, hopefully, I can achieve it really. I think the sky is the limit. I feel like I am 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 is a question mark on it, but I know I expect to do something positive.”