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What Josh Gordon’s reinstatement means for the Patriots

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Related: Patriots WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Yesterday evening, news broke that the NFL had reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon from his indefinite suspension. Needless to say that this is a positive development not just for the player himself, but also for the New England Patriots who will get one of their most talented pass catchers back on Sunday. Let’s therefore take a closer look at what his reinstatement means for the reigning world champions and their offense.

The reinstatement comes at just the right time

During Thursday’s joint practice with the Tennessee Titans, the list of players Tom Brady targeted during team drills was led by the trio of Braxton Berrios, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Despite all three performing reasonably well so far this summer, the group is not exactly awe-inspiring due to its lack of relative experience when it comes to playing with the Patriots’ quarterback and performing in a competitive setting.

However, injuries at wide receiver forced New England to hand the keys over to the youngsters. Josh Gordon’s return therefore comes at an opportune time: he will add experienced depth to the current group, and give Brady another weapon to work with until the likes of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry and Maurice Harris are able to return. He is therefore also expected to see considerable action right away.

New England’s passing offense gets a serious boost...

Despite ending the 2018 season suspended and missing all of the offseason as well as the first three weeks of training camp, Gordon should immediately reenter the lineup and contribute as the Patriots’ top X-receiver. His potential in the team’s passing offense and chemistry with Brady are well documented, after all, and he brings and immense amount of talent to New England’s skill position group. In short: the club’s aerial attack is in a much better shape today than it was yesterday.

...as one of Tom Brady’s most trusted weapons is back

Speaking of Gordon’s chemistry with Brady, the 28-year-old being back means that one of the quarterback’s most trusted pass catchers is now back in the fold. And if his eleven games in 2018 are any indication, the two should pick up right where they left off: Gordon was on the field for 71.2% of the team’s offensive snaps after it acquired him via trade from the Cleveland Browns, serving as the Patriots’ de facto third receiving weapon behind Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

In this role, Gordon caught 40 passes on 68 targets for 720 yards and three touchdowns. Furthermore, he brought a vertical element to New England’s passing game that it was missing before his addition. A prototypical X-receiver due to his combination of size, speed and physicality, he will be the deep threat that is capable of opening things up underneath for the Patriots’ other pass catchers and running backs.

The Patriots can afford to play it slow with their rookie wideouts

Gordon’s addition changes the whole complexion of the Patriots’ wide receiver position: he is a roster lock and safe bet to see considerable playing time. This, in turn, also puts the team in an interesting position when it comes to its rookie wide receivers. While N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers have performed well during training camp and the preseason, Gordon being back on the team allows the Patriots to play it slow with both of them.

What does this mean? Basically that the team ideally does not have to rely on either of the youngsters to carry the load this year, and instead is in a position to develop them more slowly and use them in a matchup and package specific way. This would limit their workload but still allow the Patriots to take advantage of their skillsets based on personnel and situation. As a result, both Harry and Meyers should be under less pressure to perform right away.

A roster spot needs to be opened up

The Patriots entered the weekend with 90 players on their roster, which means that Gordon’s addition will put the team over the offseason limit whenever it becomes official. As a result, the team will have to part ways with a player — the most likely candidates appear to be depth wide receivers Dontrelle Inman and Ryan Davis or offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier. Of course, a roster spot can also be created by moving a player to season-ending injured reserve. We will know more on Monday.