After looking DOA to start the season, the Patriots offense has returned to form thanks to the return of Julian Edelman and the addition of former Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon. The Patriots managed to get the latter for only a fifth rounder, which is a textbook definition of a steal.
With the Patriots, Gordon has put up 398 yards on 22 catches to go along with two touchdowns. He’s given the Patriots a field stretcher that somehow has fit like a glove with a 41-year-old quarterback in Tom Brady.
Malcolm Butler is being paid like a CB1, so he’ll likely get a lot of reps against Gordon (though really Adoree Jackson is the better player). It’s going to be a long day if Butler is guarding Gordon all game long, and I’m here to illustrate why in this week’s Titans Enemy Profile.
Josh Gordon in New England is closer to a Marvin Jones-esque receiver than a DeSean Jackson-esque one. He doesn’t have the world class speed of Jackson, but he has the frame, tenacity and instinct at the catch point that Jones has, and it’s been made evident a few times.
Gordon’s ability to track the ball in double coverage has been made apparent against the Colts in Week 5. After failing to create separation at first, Gordon sees Tom Brady still has time in the pocket and speeds for the back corner of the end zone. Brady lofts this up in Gordon’s area, and this is a pass where the credit goes more to the corner than the quarterback.
Gordon’s frame stands out. He’s 6’3 and 225 lb., so his big body combined with his smart mentality at the catch point make him a physical freak on contested catches. He hauls this pass in for a 34-yard touchdown.
In this beautiful day and age where everyone is going for it on 4th and short, the Patriots decide to do that here against the Bears. Kyle Fuller is matched up against Gordon, and he looks like a midget in comparison.
Brady throws a simple back shoulder pass here, while Fuller tackles Gordon as soon as he gets his mitts on the ball in the air. What makes this catch impressive is what happens as Gordon hits the ground: He tightly secures it as he’s violently swung to the ground, so much so that his helmet falls off. But the ball security here is outstanding, and it just goes to show that Gordon is still a force even with all his missed time.
Gordon is also a threat on yards after the catch, as shown on his 55-yard play against the Bears (I’d upload it but the size of the file is too big so that unfortunately isn’t happening...). He’s quite elusive for someone with as much lost time as him, and it showed on that play.
But Gordon’s heart belongs at the catch point.
People always wonder why players usually succeed in New England and not anywhere else, and it’s very simple: Bill Belichick understands who these players are and how to use them. The difference in coaching between Hue Jackson-Todd Haley and Bill Belichick-Josh McDaniels is going from the worst coaching tandem in the league to the absolute best. Belichick doesn’t need Gordon to be a blocker or a gadget guy. He know Gordon can roast corners at the catch point even with as simple as having a bigger frame (above).
Julian Edelman and James White are the safety nets for Tom Brady while Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon are the more dangerous, explosive vertical threats. Gordon’s presence has made New England’s offense that much more dangerous. He can be an explosive YAC receiver from time to time, but if there’s one area Titans fans need to be concerned with, it’s tightly contested jump balls, because he’ll make you pay if you’re off by a little much.
Gordon has had an excellent season in Foxboro thus far, and this beast must be contained for the Titans to be that much closer to an upset victory.