When the New England Patriots traded a fifth-round draft selection to the Cleveland Browns for Josh Gordon, they acquired an immensely talented player – but one that is coming with plenty of questions after having played only a handful of games since his breakout campaign in 2013: Gordon missed more than two whole seasons due to various suspensions, and because of that was never able to build on his promising All-Pro season.
Gordon finds himself on a different team and in a different environment now, and there is a realistic chance that he takes the field as a Patriot for the first time today against the Miami Dolphins. His debut in red, white and blue would mark the 12th game he has played over the last four-plus seasons – and a look back at his last 11 shows that while he missed plenty of time, he also has had some standout performances
November 23, 2014: Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons: The last time Josh Gordon was celebrating a win as an active: the Browns defeated the Falcons 26-24 on the road, and Gordon played a big role in the victory. His first game coming off a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy saw him on the field for 69% of offensive snaps and catch eight passes for 120 yards from quarterback Brian Hoyer.
November 30, 2014: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills: Gordon was again active one week later against the Bills, albeit in a 26-10 losing effort. As Hoyer’s favorite target, he caught six passes for 57 yards and added another 18-yard reception from Johnny Manziel in garbage time.
December 7, 2014: Cleveland Browns vs Indianapolis Colts: The Colts, who would go on to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game later that year, were able to limit Gordon’s impact. While he was targeted seven times by Brian Hoyer, he caught only two passes for 15 yards in one of the worst performances of his career.
December 14, 2014: Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals: Cleveland made a quarterback change in mid-December 2014 with Johnny Manziel taking over for Brian Hoyer. The result was an anemic offensive performance by the team during a 0-30 loss. Despite finishing the game with just three catches for 48 yards, Gordon was the Browns’ leading receiver against Cincinnati.
December 21, 2014: Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers: Gordon was again the Browns’ most targeted pass catcher the following week with Manziel and Hoyer throwing a combined seven passes his way. The former second-round supplemental draft selection caught a team-high four of them for 45 yards. Gordon then missed the Browns season finale because of a suspension for violating team rules.
December 3, 2017: Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers: After missing almost three years worth of action, Gordon returned in early December 2017 – delivering an encouraging performance as the team’s number two wide receiver in terms of playing time (he was on the field for 76% of offensive snaps). Gordon was targeted 11 times by quarterback Deshone Kizer and caught four passes for 85 yards.
December 10, 2017: Cleveland Browns vs Green Bay Packers: After leading his team in receiving yards in his 2017 debut, Gordon again was Cleveland’s top pass catcher when it came to creating yardage one week later. Against the Packers, he caught three passes for 69 yards and his first touchdown in four years.
December 17, 2017: Cleveland Browns vs Baltimore Ravens: Kizer again frequently targeted Gordon one week later. The rookie threw 10 passes in Gordon’s direction with the veteran wide receiver catching five of them for 47 yards – leading the team in both categories yet again.
December 24, 2017: Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears: The Browns scored just three points all game long, as Gordon had a quiet day against the Bears defense. While again targeted often, he came down with just two catches for 19 yards.
December 31, 2017: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: Cleveland’s final defeat of the 2017 season saw Gordon deliver his first 100-yard game since November 2014. The Browns’ number one wide receiver in terms of targets and playing time caught four passes for 115 yards.
September 9, 2018: Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers: Gordon’s 2018 season started relatively quietly. The 27-year old was targeted just three times by quarterback Tyrod Taylor and finished the game with only one 17-yard catch – despite playing almost 80% of offensive snaps.
One week after the Browns’ opening-game tie against Pittsburgh, Gordon injured his hamstring which led to the team’s decision to part ways with the immensely talented but troubled wide receiver. But while his off-field issues are well documented, Gordon has usually been productive when on the field: over the 11 games since his 2013 season, he caught a combined 43 for 655 and a pair of touchdowns.
Similar production would likely be well appreciated in New England.