Lack of Wideout Depth is Forcing the Browns to Hold Out Hope for Josh Gordon

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I have to tell you, I’m not sure how Josh Gordon continues to this much coverage despite not having played a down of meaningful football since December 2014. In the days since, his only real highlight was a long touchdown catch during a 2016 preseason game.

Yet, when even the slightest rumor drops about his potential return to football, the world stops to pay attention.

Consider today’s news, for example. All it took was a couple quotes from former Olympic track star Tim Montgomery claiming he thinks Gordon will be back this year, and suddenly this is all Cleveland Browns fans are talking about.

As much as I’d love to just shrug it off – a feat which seems impossible when it comes to this specific player – I can’t. Neither can Cleveland.

Thanks to the fact there’s minimal talent in their receiver room, the Browns have no choice but to hold out hope for Gordon’s reinstatement.

As far as the update on Cleveland’s hard-luck wideout, it’s really just the same old song and dance. Gordon is hoping to be reinstated soon, now having completed a 90-day stint in rehab. He’s reportedly in great shape. He’s reportedly looking to return this year. Rinse and repeat.

If I sound cynical, it’s basically because we’ve been hearing “Gordon might be coming back” rumors for the past two seasons. They always end with him not actually returning to the field. Until we hear otherwise, there’s no reason to believe this latest instance will end any differently.

Let’s just say he does get reinstated this time, though. Nine times out of ten, my bet would be on the Browns still severing ties with him, ridding themselves of a headache which has been lingering for two years now.

However, I say nine times out of ten for a reason. Said reason is Cleveland’s depth chart at receiver.

Outside of second-year wideout Corey Coleman, the Browns are desperately thin at this position. Offseason acquisition Kenny Britt is already in hot water thanks to a brutal drop late in last Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Preseason pick-ups Sammie Coates and Kasen Williams have promise, but aren’t yet up to speed. Ricardo Louis had a couple nice moments Sunday, but is hardly anyone’s idea of a starter at this point.

As you can see, the cupboard is pretty barren for the Browns here. So, as much as they’d love to finally take the hard line with Gordon and say “welcome back, now kindly leave,” they can’t afford to.

They, like many within the fan-base, remember what Gordon did in 2013, setting NFL records despite missing the first two games of the season. They’re aware of the kind of talent he brings to the table, and what it could do for the offense if he indeed gets reinstated. Someone’s going to have to attract attention of opposing defenses to ensure Coleman isn’t getting triple-covered each week, and Gordon would certainly do that much and more.

As we’ve all learned though, the idea of Gordon suiting up for a regular season has practically become fool’s gold at this point. Expecting him to replicate his 2013 performance could be even more outlandish.

Last year, Gordon appeared on pace to return to regular season football after a four-game suspension. In his practices before this, he continued showing the same tendencies to loaf as he has for some time now. When his 2014 suspension ended, he played half-heartedly more often than not.

Should he get reinstated, and should Cleveland be willing to give him a shot, the team would have to take a no-nonsense approach. Gordon’s talent shouldn’t make him immune to benching, especially considering it took one drop from Britt to put his spot on the depth chart in jeopardy.

Of course, this is all hypothetical, just as it always seems to be with Gordon. He may not even get reinstated. If he is, he may not be kept by the Browns.

However, they certainly can’t afford to just kick him to the curb if he does get the green light from the league. Had the team put a little more focus in fielding better wideouts this past offseason, perhaps it would have a little more power in this situation.

This isn’t the case, though. As a result, Cleveland finds itself sitting and waiting for news on Gordon just like the rest of us.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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