Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon continued his trend of lighting up NFL secondaries this past Sunday versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, when he posted over 200-plus yards for the second week in a row.
Despite missing the first two games of the season due to suspension, the Baylor product only trails Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in total receiving yards this season.
Today, let’s go to the tape, take a look at the skill set of the second-year pro and break down some of the top route concepts in the Browns playbook that allow Gordon to produce on a consistent basis.
Size, Speed at the Wide Receiver Position
Gordon is a true size/speed player. He ran in the low 4.5s at his pro day before coming out of Baylor in the supplemental draft, but I see a receiver who plays at 4.4 speed on tape.
Gordon can push a cornerback down the field versus off-man coverage to run the curl/comeback and separate off the 9 (fade) route when the ball is in the air, as well as win underneath by working away from a defender’s leverage.
But it’s his size and ball skills at the point of attack that really stand out. Gordon is listed at 6'3", 225 pounds, and that shows up when he runs the deep dig versus Cover 2 with a safety driving downhill or when he is matched up against a corner in press-man coverage.
He is strong at the line of scrimmage and on the finish, plus he can climb the ladder to high-point the ball, showcase his body control to finish down the field and produce after the catch.
Development as a Pro
The key with Gordon is that the arrow is pointing up and he is producing huge numbers in Cleveland.
But we have to remember that Gordon is only in his second year as a pro, and he has also worked with three different quarterbacks this season in Cleveland.
His overall technique has to improve. That includes his route-running ability. He needs to focus on his footwork, hips and angle at the top of the stem to create even more separation back to the football when he matches up against the elite cornerbacks in the NFL.
That’s pretty standard for young players at the position. It takes time to develop those skills outside of the numbers to combine that raw talent with technique.
I’m talking about the consistent ability to win within the route stem, by forcing cornerbacks to widen in their pedal or using multiple breaking routes that can turn a defensive back around.
Gordon’s talent is legit—there is no question about that—but he can get to a level that allows him to be dominant in running the entire route tree.
Breaking Down Gordon on the Tape
Let’s take a look a some of the route concepts that showcase Gordon’s ability.
Deep Dig Route (Square-In)
Shallow Drive Route
9 (Fade) Route
Wheel Route/Slot Alignment
Is Gordon the Next Brandon Marshall?
I have received plenty of thoughts on players who compare to Gordon on Twitter. From Andre Johnson to Demaryius Thomas, NFL fans gave me their opinions on how Gordon’s skill set matches up with some of the top receivers in the game.
When I watch the tape, I see a lot of similarities between Gordon and Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
They are both physical players who can beat press coverage, work in the middle of the field and showcase their abilities after the catch to break tackles. Think of matchups here on third downs and scoring opportunities in the red zone.
Their quarterbacks can throw the slant, dig, seam and back-shoulder fade all day.
The idea here is to make opposing cornerbacks work extremely hard to maintain their leverage and play the ball. That’s what both of these receivers provide to the game plan.
Overall, I think Gordon is a star. He really is, and should continue to develop.
The next step for the Browns to aid in that development? Figure out the quarterback situation in Cleveland this offseason and give Gordon a consistent player under center.
That's the key to building a winner and allowing Gordon to join the discussion as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.