It seems as though each week, the Cleveland Browns find a way to create a new story. This week’s story is that the front office has had trade talks with San Francisco and others about the possibility of trading wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the Browns were seeking a second-round draft pick in return for the team’s biggest playmaking threat. Despite the fact that Gordon is averaging 101 yards per game and has two touchdowns since his return from suspension, the Browns were willing to listen to offers.
Every player has a price and any good front office should always listen to offers, but Gordon’s price tag should be astronomical.
While Gordon is one step away from being suspended for an entire season under the NFL’s substance abuse policy, he is also one step away from being an elite receiver in the league.
The Browns should accept nothing less than a first-round or high second-round draft pick for Gordon. He is that good. While they are gambling that he stays clear of trouble this offseason, it is an even bigger gamble to lose one of the best young receivers in the league.
In this week’s film breakdown, we will go back through Gordon’s three games and show exactly why he is so unique and an indispensable weapon for the Browns.
Play 1: 1st-and-10 at their own 18-yard line
This is Gordon’s first game back from suspension in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings. Gordon is lined up on the bottom of the picture and will run a simple wide receiver screen route.
Wide receiver Greg Little will block the outside cornerback while right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will sprint to block the inside cornerback. This play’s outcome will rely on Gordon’s ability to read blocks and make defenders miss.
Gordon receives the throw from quarterback Brian Hoyer. He sees that Schwartz still has about five yards to reach his block, and Little should have the outside sealed off nicely. Instead of running straight downfield into the defender, he takes two steps forward and then spins back to the outside, away from the inside defender.
Gordon’s spin move allowed him to get behind Little’s block and into the next level of defenders. This is where Gordon is on his own, because there are no more blockers to lead him.
As he approaches the first safety, he punches hard to the outside and then right back inside, throwing the defender off-balance. This allows him to get into the final wave of defenders.
The defender that Gordon just juked is able to recover and try to make a tackle from behind. Gordon’s 6’3”, 225-pound frame is strong enough to shed the tackle and run another nine yards before being pushed out of bounds.
On this play, Josh Gordon showed his vision and elusiveness. This could have been a three-yard gain, but because he was able to read blocks, juke defenders and shed tackles, the play resulted in a 30-yard gain.
Gordon is known for his size and speed, but his field vision is impeccable. He is such a rare combination of tangible and intangible weaponry.
Play 2: 3rd-and-5 on their own 36-yard line
This play is from the second quarter of Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Gordon is lined up at the top of the screen. He will run a streak route down the sideline. To his right, wide receiver Davone Bess will run a short out route about three yards up the field. On the opposite side of the field, wide receiver Travis Benjamin will also run a streak route down the sideline.
This is important because it will force the Bengals' deep safety to choose which side of the field to defend.
The streak routes on both sides of the field freeze the deep safety. Hoyer recognizes that Gordon has single coverage on the outside. He promptly throws the ball 30 yards down the field.
When a receiver has elite ability, quarterbacks can feel comfortable throwing the ball up for grabs. They know that nine times out of 10, their guy will come down with the pass in one-on-one coverage.
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has perfect coverage. He forces Gordon outside and shoots his arm up through Gordon’s to try and deflect the pass. Unfortunately for Jones, Josh Gordon is a freak of nature.
Gordon reaches right over Jones and snags the catch.
This is playmaking ability in its purest form. Great receivers are literally unguardable when the ball is within their reach and they have single coverage. This is a play that very few wideouts can make on a consistent basis, and Gordon is one of them.
Instead of an incomplete pass, this was a 33-yard gain that put the Browns in Bengals territory.
Play 3: 1st-and-25 on their opponents’ 27-yard line
This play is from Week 5 against Buffalo in the third quarter of a prime-time game. Gordon is on the top of the picture and will run a streak route down the sidelines.
On the opposite side of the field, Benjamin will run a deep in route. Tight end Jordan Cameron will run a streak route down the seam. Both of these routes will force the deep safeties to choose whom they will cover.
There is some confusion between the Bills’ safeties, and they both collapse on Cameron’s streak down the seam. This leaves Gordon in single coverage to the outside.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden does a good job recognizing the single coverage and throws a bomb into the end zone. He puts enough air under the throw that Gordon can use his speed and run to the catch.
In the last picture, the cornerback was neck-and-neck with Gordon. This is not the case anymore. In 25 yards, Gordon runs straight past the defender to catch the ball in the end zone unguarded.
This is a perfect illustration of Josh Gordon’s speed. He had no trouble putting space between himself and the defender with the ball in the air. This play resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass.
In the breakdown of these three plays, Gordon displayed vision, elusiveness, playmaking ability and raw speed. These are all the elements you want in a young wide receiver. Remember, all these plays have only happened in the last three games.
Despite missing the first two games, he is 38th in the NFL in receiving yards. He is also seventh in the NFL in yards per reception (among players with at least 18 receptions).
To trade away the talent Gordon possesses for anything less than top dollar would be a monumental mistake.