Cleveland Browns: What to Expect from Josh Gordon in 2018

When Josh Gordon burst onto the scene in 2012 with the Cleveland Browns, he looked like a future superstar at wide receiver. His size, speed, hands, and ability to make plays all over the field had him looking like a future Hall-of-Famer. Seriously, he was that good.

Gordon caught 50 passes for 805 yards, good for an average of 16.1 yards per reception, while also hauling in five touchdowns. Remember, Gordon was a supplemental draft pick so he didn’t even join the team until July.

It was 2013 when Gordon truly took flight. He played in 14 games—he was suspended the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy—catching 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine scores. He averaged almost 19 yards per reception, a ridiculous number for someone with so many receptions.

After the completion of his second season, Gordon was named first-team All-Pro alongside Calvin Johnson. Things couldn’t have been going any better for Gordon and the Cleveland Browns. The Browns finally had a football star that was going to alter the course of their franchise.

Then, in July of 2014 Gordon was arrested for driving while impaired. Later that summer, Gordon was suspended for the entire season due to another violation of the league’s drug policy. That suspension was later reduced to 10 games via appeal. His 2014 season saw him play in just five games.

Gordon would go on to fail more drug tests and was suspended for the 2015 season and denied reinstatement for the 2016 season. Gordon spent time in a rehab facility and applied for reinstatement again in 2017. Finally, he was reinstated in November and allowed to play in Cleveland’s final five games last season.

In his brief action in 2017, Gordon caught 18 passes for 335 yards and found the end zone once. He showed flashes of his former self despite Cleveland’s struggles at the quarterback position.

This offseason, the Browns reinvested in the quarterback position, trading for reliable veteran Tyrod Taylor and drafting Heisman Trophy winner, Baker Mayfield, No. 1 overall. The Browns also added another receiving target in the reliable Jarvis Landry to pair with Gordon, second-year tight end David Njoku, Rashard Higgins and former first-round pick Corey Coleman. However, the Browns decided to trade Coleman for a future late-round pick after determining he was not part of their future plans.

It’s clear the Browns are building this team with the hope that Gordon is ready to become a mainstay, but not depending solely on those hopes. Then, on the eve of training camp, Gordon announced he was not reporting to training camp as he continued to focus on his health and treatment plan.

There’s no reason to believe Gordon is being nothing but truthful, and it appears he could be delaying his return to camp because of the Hard Knocks’ series filming Browns’ camp. Gordon is working out in Florida and looks to be in fantastic shape. Earlier this month, a video was released showing Gordon looking unstoppable.

If Gordon reports to camp soon, as expected, what should we expect in 2018?

While Gordon may not put up the video-game numbers he did in 2013, he’ll still be plenty effective. His short time playing in 2017 showed everyone how fantastic he can still be. Defenders have a hard time with Gordon at the line of scrimmage and it doesn’t appear that he has lost a step of athleticism. Head coach Hue Jackson’s offense also likes to push the ball down the field, which is a strength of Gordon’s.

If Taylor begins the season at quarterback for the Browns, which is the expectation, expect Gordon to be used more conservatively. Taylor takes care of the football and doesn’t take a lot of chances. That would mean Landry and Njoku could be more featured than Gordon, at least initially, although he’d still get his chances on slants, hitches, etc. Gordon is far too talented to not be a featured player in any offense.

If Mayfield were to take over under center at any point in 2018, Gordon’s numbers could go through the roof. The rookie likes to sling the ball around and isn’t afraid of taking chances. He always looks for the big play.

Physically and mentally, Gordon looks ready to go. By the time the season begins next month, the expectation is Gordon will be with the Browns and ready to go. That should have everyone in the NFL excited. Gordon is a rare talent who has taken care of himself despite the relative inactivity over the last few years.

Sometimes we seem to forget that Gordon is still just 27 years old and will be playing for his first big contract. To achieve that, Gordon must be healthy and focused. He appears to be both and that could be exactly what the Cleveland Browns need to become relevant once again.

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