Josh Gordon Can Dominate Upon His Return
Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns have been far more successful on offense than anyone expected following the suspension of Josh Gordon. Instead of struggling to throw the ball at all Brian Hoyer has been efficient and effective in the passing game. The key has obviously been the Browns rushing attack, one that has just been downright amazing.
Gordon is set to return following his 10 game suspension. When he returns the Browns will have six games remaining starting with their Week 12 game with the Atlanta Falcons. At that point, following the Browns upcoming four game stretch that we covered here (New Window), many are expecting Gordon to help the offense take off to the next level.
However Josh Gordon could struggle upon his return to the Cleveland Browns. We will not cover any possibility of Gordon getting himself into trouble again, obviously that would create another set of issues. Instead we will look on the field and things that could lead to Gordon struggling.
The new drug policy gave Gordon a huge help towards his conditioning but nothing can compare to live game and practice action. Gordon, under the supervision of the team’s strength and conditioning coaches will come back in good shape but will be unlikely to be at top speed for two to three games. This could cause Gordon to get frustrated and disrupt timing on offense. QB Brian Hoyer is used to working with a full speed Gordon from last season, anything less could make for a sloppy start to his return.
One of the reasons that Gordon had such a great year last year was that the ball was often forced to him. Last year Gordon was targeted 42 more times than the next closest, Jordan Cameron, and 60 times more than the next closest wide receiver. All while playing in only 14 games. This season Brian Hoyer has spread the ball all over the field, even though Andrew Hawkins is leading the team with 42 targets, 20 more than the next closest receiver. Five different Browns have been target 12 times or more to start the season. When Gordon returns he could get frustrated when he is not targeted as much and those reduced targets could reduce the statistical impact he has on the game.
Kyle Shanahan could look to use Gordon as a decoy more often than in the past. With Cameron and Hawkins, as well as running backs who can catch, the Browns can take advantage of all the attention that is sent Gordon’s way. Shanahan is a proven creative play caller who won’t waste Gordon’s value in this role as well. Gordon has seemed to check out mentally if he is not highly involved in games. A fake wide receiver screen to Gordon leading to a delayed counter handoff is one example of how Decoy Gordon is a valuable asset as well.
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The Browns passing game and Hoyer have been successful out of play action passing. Whether off a fake or just in pure drop back passing Hoyer has hit his back foot, while going through his progressions, and unloaded the pass most of the time. The routes that Shanahan has the Browns running are precise routes that help them get open. Gordon has certainly improved as a route runner but he isn’t strong at snapping off his routes quickly. This could cause issues for Hoyer’s timing or cause him to move on from Gordon quickly in his progressions to the next open receiver. Shanahan has always used more small, quick receivers for this reason and could cause some early frustrations and struggles for the star receiver, Hoyer and Shanahan.
We will cover why we believe Gordon will likely succeed upon his return but wanted to first start with out concerns. With the Browns coming off a victory, sitting at .500, only one game behind in the AFC North and an easy looking scheduling coming up, Browns fans have started to plan for Gordon’s return. His return will do wonders for the Browns but it might not be as easy as many expected for these reasons.
Do you think Gordon will struggle upon his return?