Cleveland Browns: Josh Gordon could have similar season to 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Off the field incidents and suspensions has been the story of Josh Gordon’s career, but 2018 could be the year the Cleveland Browns receiver makes his on-field play the story of his career.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to a NFL regular season game for the first time last season since 2014. It was a welcoming sight for Browns fans, as Gordon is one of the most talented players the organization since the team returned in 1999.

But off the field problems and substance-abuse suspensions have been the only things that have slowed down Gordon’s career. He made his NFL debut in 2012, but has only played in 40 NFL games in his career. He has missed two full seasons and partially played three seasons because of suspensions.

He proved he was one of the NFL’s most talented players during the 2013 season when he caught 87 passes for 1,646 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in only 14 games.

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He has never been able to recreate those numbers since that season. Mainly because he has never had a full season to have a chance to put together those type of numbers. But in 2018, he will have that opportunity.

When Gordon returned to the field in 2017, it seemed like he had finally learned from his mistakes in the past. He trained with former Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery, who also dealt with drug problems in the past. Montgomery spent prison time becuase of drug violations and also lost Olympic medals. Montgomery knows first hand what can happen to a career because of drug addiction, and it seems that he got to Gordon at the right time to help turn his career around.

But now that Gordon’s drug problems appear to be behind him, he has a chance to play a full season for the first time since his rookie season in 2012. The biggest difference this season compared to the other seasons in his career is that he will have a full offseason with the team to get in shape and stay in shape.

Every time that Gordon returned to the field following his suspensions, he never appeared to be in game shape. It seemed he was using the regular season games to help him rebuild his physical shape and build his stamina. Because of this, he wasn’t as explosive for a full game like he was in 2013.

But having a full offseason and preseason with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches will have Gordon ready for games immediately. Gordon’s best attribute is his explosive speed in combination with his size. That combination makes it very difficult for most cornerbacks to defend him. Being able to outrun defenders or get extra vertical on his jumps will be much easier for Gordon to maintain for a full game with a full training camp under his belt.

On top of being in much better physical shape entering the season, Gordon now finds himself with one of the best group of surrounding players in his career.

When Gordon had his incredible season in 2013, he was catching passes from what seemed like a different quarterback every game. Because of injuries, the Browns had a revolving door of quarterbacks, with Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, and Brian Hoyer all starting games.

But in 2018, Gordon will be catching passes from likely the best quarterback he has played with in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a smart and accurate quarterback, and he will give plenty of good chances for Gordon to make plays.

But Gordon also will be playing with a very good group of receivers around him. In 2013, the second best receiver behind Gordon was tight end Jordan Cameron. He will be playing with a tight end as talented, if not more talented, in David Njoku. He will also have Jarvis Landry playing beside him, with Landry mostly playing in the slot.

Having two other receivers that can make plays will make it very difficult for defenses to focus all of coverage on Gordon. If they shade defenders towards Gordon to prevent him from getting as open, they will leave Njoku and Landry with more space to make plays.

By not being able to focus solely on Gordon, it will create plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Gordon. Even with Njoku and Landry, Gordon is by far the biggest vertical threat. With one-on-one opportunities, Gordon can exploit the matchups downfield.

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Gordon is going to get plenty of good opportunities to make plays with the players surrounding him. With him being in game shape from day one, he will be able to take advantage of those opportunities and have the chance to put up similar numbers to his phenomonal 2013 season.