Josh Gordon is going to have to learn quick and get used to getting hit even quicker as he will enter the 2018 season without having played a down of football.
Of course, this is nothing new for the Cleveland Browns’ athletic phenom receiver. Gordon has been suspended too many times to count, and he hasn’t had much of a problem seamlessly joining the team and contributing after having prior no game experience at all.
Although Gordon has returned to the team’s active roster, coach Hue Jackson said he will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Detroit Lions.
“He has done a little bit more everyday,” Jackson told media during a Monday press availability. “He’s getting closer, so that’s exciting.
“No, he’s not playing Thursday.”
It makes sense then that Gordon likely won’t be at 100 percent as far as “football shape” is concerned when the team hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. As a result, Jackson said Gordon won’t be listed as a starter for that game even if he’s fully healthy, according to The Chronicle-Telegram’s Scott Petrak.
#Browns Hue Jackson said Josh Gordon won't play vs. Lions, won't start vs. Steelers in opener even if 100 percent. Gordon said he can shake off rust on practice field, will be 100 percent "for sure" for Week 1.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) August 27, 2018
Like Petrak’s Tweet indicates, Gordon thinks he’ll be ready for Week 1 and isn’t worried about any “rust” he may have built up after missing all of training camp and most of the team’s preseason while dealing with personal matters.
In five games last season, Gordon had just 18 receptions on 42 targets, a career-worst 42.9 percent catch rate. But he did have 335 yards and one score, and was catching passes from erratic rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Gordon was clearly not back to full speed after missing much of the season under what felt like a five-year suspension.
Despite that, standout San Diego Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward called Gordon his toughest matchup of the season, other than Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr, per ESPN’s Field Yates. By the way, the Browns played Gordon in his Week 13 return to the league.
We like to think Gordon will step onto the field in Week 1 and dominate the Steelers, and he could, but it’s not a given. That’s especially true because of Jackson’s hesitancy to give him a free path to playing time.
But Jackson’s repeated downplaying of Gordon’s progress and involvement to the media could be empty rhetoric, though, as we have seen from the coach in the past. Any coach trying to win football games would and should be on the edge of their seat pining for the chance to deploy Gordon on a football field.
Yeah, we get it, earn your stripes. But Gordon is Gordon, and the Browns need touchdowns. Put him on the field and let him do what he does best.
Additionally, Jackson said Baker Mayfield will start against the Lions on Thursday. He also added that most starters will not play in the game, although there might be exceptions. He listed rookies Austin Corbett and Antonio Callaway, and Kevin Zeitler, who is coming back from a lengthy injury, as potential starting caliber players who will see playing time, per Petrak.