Many thanks to Michael Pina of ESPN’s TrueHoop Network for providing us with the following guest post on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and let him know what you think.
Josh Gordon returned to the Cleveland Browns last Sunday after serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and the result was nearly as meaningful as Batman escaping his hole-in-the-ground prison and saving Gotham from nuclear annihilation.
Gordon grabbed ten balls for 146 yards and scored a touchdown. He also had one rush for 22 yards.
Almost every time a Minnesota Vikings safety didn’t help over the top, Gordon beat his man for a significant gain. His only touchdown came in the first quarter on his second target of the contest. After making a simple stutter step 15 yards up the field, he spun his man around, then continued up the sideline for a 47-yard bomb, as easy a throw-and-catch situation as you’ll see at this level.
(As the ball was snapped, Minnesota’s strong safety came up to check Cleveland’s halfback, who was taking his time even releasing into a pattern. The free safety then had to choose between Gordon and Greg Little, who was lined up in the opposite slot running a post. Gordon deserves credit for beating his man, but Minnesota’s defensive scheme allowed this touchdown more than anything.)
On his very next catch—also Cleveland’s next offensive play—Gordon caught the ball only a few yards past the line of scrimmage, then barreled his way 30 yards up the field on a modestly well-timed bubble screen. His offensive linemen didn’t release as quickly as they could have, but Gordon still churned his legs to a major gain.
He’s well-renowned for his ability to stretch the field, and that’s a fantastic characteristic any receiver would love to have placed beside their name on every other team’s scouting report. It means you’re very fast, very elusive, and can catch a football that’s been traveling 50 yards in the air.
What it doesn’t say is you’re humongous, tough to tackle, intelligent, a good route-runner, can block, have great hands in traffic, are tough, or contain any of the other qualities we attribute to elite receivers.
Gordon stretches the field, sure. But he’s so much more, at 6’3″ and 225 pounds. He doesn’t turn 23 until April. Today, he’s talented enough to be a good No. 1 receiver in an average offense. As his career progresses, who knows what type of ceiling is in store.
Gordon was targeted 19 times on Sunday. Dwayne Bowe and Hakeem Nicks have combined for 33 targets this season. He’s clearly a major part of Cleveland’s offense in the here and now, and his influence on Sunday’s victory against the Vikings was obvious and mighty.
The win came days after Cleveland traded their franchise running back, Trent Richardson, to Indianapolis for a 2014 first-round pick, and smoke from a possible fire sale began to permeate throughout the league. The Browns don’t have much to offer, especially on the offensive side of the ball, which is why trading a player as skilled as Gordon gets tricky.
The Browns really need to recognize who’s valuable on their roster—or who’s difficult to replace—and who has value on the trade market. Who is worth replacing with another high draft pick? Where does Gordon fall in their infrastructure?
With the NFL’s trade deadline looming on October 29, the chances that Cleveland has the time to craft and execute another blockbuster deal are slim. But with several suitors (like New England) snooping around, a deal for Gordon isn’t impossible.