Finally, after waiting for what’s felt like an eternity and a little more, Josh Gordon is back to the NFL, playing in his first regular-season game since the 2014 NFL Season. Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson said that he had a ton of plays designed for Gordon and that seemed true on Sunday, as Gordon was targeted 11 times and caught four balls for 85 yards.
One of the concerns about Gordon this year was how he’d look on the field, what kind of shape he’d be in, how well he’d know the playbook, and fortunately, Gordon looked excellent. He looked like the Josh Gordon we all know and love, big, fast, powerful, with great hands. Today, we’re going to dive into his performance target-by-target.
Target 1: Short pass to the middle for nine yards
Gordon’s first target also ends up being his first catch of the season. It’s a fairly simple play, Gordon runs a quick slant route on a play action. DeShone Kizer throws him a little bit short, but he’s able to grab the ball and fights forward to try and reach a first down.
Gordon isn’t easy to bring down, he’s 6’3″, 225 pounds and he’s a strong man. This is just the first of a few examples of how difficult it is to take down Gordon. If Gordon had been a smaller receiver, Tre Boston might’ve creamed him, but instead, he has to drag Gordon down.
Target 2: Incomplete pass deep to the right
This is going to be a fairly recurring theme throughout this article. If there’s one thing that’s going to limit Gordon’s productivity, it’s the quarterback play for the Browns. If there’s one thing that working on this breakdown has taught me, it’s that DeShone Kizer is not a good quarterback, not yet at least.
Here, Gordon runs a quick post off of a play action and beats Adrian Phillips deep, but unfortunately, Kizer overthrows him. Likely that play would’ve been a touchdown, and if Gordon were playing with a more competent quarterback, he would’ve had a significantly better day (as we’ll see later on).
Gordon’s talent is good enough to overcome a bad quarterback to an extent, but as long as someone like Kizer or Kevin Hogan or some drifter scalping tickets outside the stadium is playing quarterback for the Browns, Gordon’s ceiling will, unfortunately, be limited.
Target 3: Incomplete pass short to the left
Another example of Kizer’s inaccuracy. This is a fairly simple play, Gordon runs a curl and actually is able to fool Casey Hayward who obviously didn’t think that Gordon was stopping short, but Kizer’s throw sails right over Gordon’s head for an incomplete pass.
Target 4: Short pass complete to the left for nine yards
Gordon runs a dig route and the play does exactly what it should. With David Njoku running a flat route, he draws Tre Boston which leaves Gordon one-on-one with Casey Hayward who was giving him a few yards of cushion. Kizer tosses it right where he should to Gordon and Gordon is able to fight forward for some yards.
Target 5: Deep pass complete to the left for 28 yards
A pretty simple play but a fantastic catch. Gordon just goes long one-on-one with Casey Hayward and beats him, which is no easy feat. Kizer probably could have and should have led Gordon a bit more with his pass, but Gordon is able to use his size and strength to win a jump ball against Hayward for an awesome catch and a reminder of just how insanely gifted a receiver Josh Gordon is.
Target 6: Incomplete pass short to the right
Similar to his third target of the game, Gordon runs a curl route but this time, Casey Hayward isn’t fooled. This incompletion isn’t necessarily the fault of Gordon, it’s just good coverage by one of the better corners in the game, plus a bad throw from Kizer that honestly should have probably been an interception.
Target 7: Incomplete pass deep to the right
Like I said before if this breakdown has shown me anything, it’s that Gordon’s potential is going to really be limited by the quarterback play in Cleveland, and this is another example of that.
There’s a lot of wasted potential on this play. Gordon runs long against Trevor Williams and beats him but Kizer doesn’t lead him, which forces Gordon to slow down and try to catch a contested ball, which he’s unable to do. Had Kizer led him well enough, that could’ve been a huge play and even potentially a really long touchdown.
Target 8: Incomplete pass deep to the right
Gordon goes long against Casey Hayward one more time and yet again, DeShone Kizer overthrows him. Gordon had gotten even with Hayward which likely meant he was about to beat him, though even if Gordon had made the catch, it’s likely he wouldn’t have gotten far as it looked like Tre Boston was coming in fast. Still, this incompletion is fully on Kizer.
Target 9: Incomplete pass short to the right
It looks like Gordon is running a comeback route here, either that or an out route, it’s difficult to tell because Kizer throws him the ball as soon as he makes his cut.
Honestly, it looks like Kizer threw the ball to Gordon before he was even ready for it, forcing him to go down to try and grab the ball, which, unfortunately, he’s unable to do.
Target 10: Incomplete pass short to the left
This one’s pretty straightforward. Gordon runs straight into the endzone and Kizer tries to get him the ball but Hayward is playing tight coverage on him and defends the pass well. Gordon is an exceptionally talented receiver, but Hayward is a really talented corner too, and sometimes he’s going to win those matchups.
Target 11: Deep pass complete to the left for 39 yards
Gordon’s final target of the game is one of his most impressive plays. Gordon runs an in route and while Kizer doesn’t really lead him much, it’s enough that Gordon is able to catch the ball and then stiff arm Casey Hayward to fight for about another 20 yards.
Josh Gordon looks like the Josh Gordon we all know and love, and this game showed him using his speed, his hands, his size, and his strength to have a fairly impressive game. He’s going to be limited by Kizer’s play, but the man is absurdly talented and it’s wonderful to have him back in the NFL.