The Cleveland Browns Should Not Have High Expectations For Josh Gordon’s Return [Opinion]

The Cleveland Browns got a playmaker back in wide receiver Josh Gordon, but a big game isn’t likely.

Jason MillerGetty Images

The Cleveland Browns have not been winning this season, and that’s clear. As the only team still without a win in the 2017 NFL season, there are plenty of culprits to point the finger at. Head man Hue Jackson does not have much talent to work with on the offensive side of the ball, and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer has been far from stellar. He leads the NFL in interceptions thrown, and has made crucial mistakes in the red zone time and time again. It’s not all Kizer’s fault, because the Browns’ offense does not really have notable playmakers. Nonetheless, Kizer’s fortune could change this Sunday, though, as troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon will be in the starting lineup this upcoming game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

This will be Gordon’s first game action since December 21st, 2014, according to Adam Wells of Bleacher Report. It’s beneficial for the rookie quarterback to have as talented of a receiver as Gordon out there to throw the ball to down the field. With the big-bodied wideout on the outside, that could provide Kizer with a quality security blanket for third-down situations, or when plays break down. There was no concern from Jackson and the coaching staff about overworking Gordon, and he had a strong reaction when asked if he would start the talented playmaker, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.

“Heck ya, are you kidding me?” he said with a laugh. “Yeah, he’s going to start — right away. I’m kind of surprised you’d ask. You have to play your good players, right?”

null

Yes, it’s clear that Jackson needs to play his good players, especially if there is a possibility Cleveland chooses to keep him after the season ends. That being said, Jackson and the rest of the coaching staff can not expect Josh Gordon to suddenly look like he’s back to All-Pro form, like he was in 2013.

That season, the uber-talented receiver caught 87 passes, and had 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, courtesy of ESPN. Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards that year, while only playing in 14 games, and Brandon Weeden was primarily throwing him the ball.

That insane production came a long time ago, though, and it’s pretty unrealistic to expect Gordon to have big numbers in this closing stretch of the Browns’ season. Cleveland has a rookie signal-caller who is turning it over in the most inopportune times, and the Browns’ running game has been inconsistent. Gordon should have a bit more room to get open with Corey Coleman as Cleveland’s number two option at wideout, but this matchup against the Chargers is anything but ideal for a return. It does at least help evaluate Kizer with a fuller compliment of weapons, though, and Cleveland should have a better chance to utilize the young quarterback’s impressive arm strength.

Josh Gordon returns for Browns
Featured image credit: John GrieshopGetty Images

Regardless, Los Angeles has a tremendous pass rush highlighted by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edges, which will likely cause the ball to get hurried into harm’s way by Kizer. Although the Browns do have two emerging tight end threats in David Njoku and Seth DeValve, in addition to a talented pass-catching running back in Duke Johnson, the Chargers will be a terrible matchup.

Gordon may get some empty production if the Browns are trailing considerably, but it’s hard to believe he gets consistent separation from a ball-hawking secondary like L.A.’s. Gordon may provide a spark in the next few weeks and fill some seats, but will his presence generate wins? That’s hard to say, as he’s not played meaningful games in nearly three years. Temper your expectations, Browns.