Daily Focus: What Josh Gordon's return means for Browns
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
What Josh Gordon’s return means for Cleveland’s offense: After multiple off-field issues, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has been reinstated following last year’s season-long suspension. The NFL announced he will still miss the first four games of the season, but he’s eligible to participate in training camp and preseason prior to the start of the regular season.
It remains to be seen if and how Gordon fits into the Browns’ plans for the future. Andrew Hawkins, who had his lowest overall grade in his career in 2015, should return after missing half of last season with a concussion. Hawkins is just a year removed from the best season of his career when he had the 12th-highest overall grade among wide receivers. Cleveland invested a first-round pick in former Baylor WR Corey Coleman, and then followed up by selecting three more receivers on Day 3 of the draft.
The Browns have players with potential, but it is still a largely unproven group. If Gordon actually plays and performs to a similar level that we saw a few years ago — both of which are fairly big ‘ifs’ at this point — he will be a big boost for the Cleveland wide receiver corps.
Despite playing in only 14 games during the 2013 season, Gordon led the league in receiving yards and yards per catch. He eclipsed 100 receiving yards in seven games, including back-to-back games of 237 and 261 yards, respectively. He also ranked third among wide receivers with 2.68 yards per route run. The only area where Gordon did not excel was with drops, where his 9.38 drop rate was a little worse than average that season. Yet he proved he was an excellent playmaker who could make a significant different to an offense when on the field.
However, he cannot do it alone. In the five games Gordon played in 2014, the Browns quarterbacks never graded higher than 20th, or with a positive overall grade in any given week. Although he didn’t fare as well as he did in the previous year, Gordon managed to gain 303 yards and a receiving grade that ranked 19th over those five weeks. Regardless of who lines up at receiver, quarterback performance is still going to largely dictate the offense’s production as a whole. However, his return could give Cleveland’s quarterbacks another legitimate target when they already need all the help they can get.
(PFF Fantasy Insight: Our Jeff Ratcliffe on what to expect from Gordon upon his return — and it’s not “WR1.” The Browns were in the bottom four of Tyler Loechner’s fantasy power rankings before this news, though with Gordon in the fold — along with Corey Coleman, Gary Barnidge, Duke Johnson and others — the Browns’ offense does have potential.)
Washington loses a potential starter on defense with Junior Galette injury: After missing all of 2015 due to a ruptured Achilles tendon during the preseason, Junior Galette faces a similar fate again this year with the news that he tore his other Achilles. It’s a tough break for Galette, who off-field issues aside, had his best season as a pro when last on the field. In his last season with New Orleans in 2014, Galette had the third-highest pass rushing grade among all edge defenders, and the second-highest per-snap pass rushing productivity as he generated a pressure on average of once every 6.4 pass-rush snaps.
Washington had Galette penciled in at the starting outside linebacker spot opposite of Ryan Kerrigan heading into training camp. With Galette no longer available, second-year player Preston Smith will likely see his playing time increase again this season. Smith held his own in a part-time role last year, although still graded just around average. As a rookie he picked up 38 total pressures on 361 pass rushes and had 17 total defensive stops. Washington also made the decision this offseason to move Trent Murphy from outside linebacker to defensive end in an attempt to get their best players on the field together. It will be interesting to see if they stick with his position change.
What rookie Jalen Ramsey can bring to Jacksonville’s defense: Jaguars’ first-round pick Jalen Ramsey had surgery after the draft for a torn meniscus, but GM David Caldwell announced that Ramsey will be cleared for the beginning of training camp. It is expected, yet great news for Jacksonville, who lost last year’s first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. to injury before the season started.
Ramsey was one of the best players in May’s NFL draft, with him as the No. 3 overall player on our draft board leading up to the event. He should start at outside cornerback, but also has versatility to play safety as well. He had the highest overall grade among draft-eligible cornerbacks in 2015, and his ability to play run defense will also benefit the Jacksonville defense.