The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell have conditionally reinstated Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon, the league announced on Friday.
Gordon stepped away from football back in December and was suspended indefinitely for violations of the substances of abuse policy, but is now permitted to attend meetings and engage in conditioning work and individual drills.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 16, 2019
He will be permitted to participate in team activities, including practice and games once he has shown appropriate progress on “clinical care and other arrangements.”
Gordon will not play in Saturday second preseason game or the Patriots’ third preseason game on Thursday, August 22.
The uber-talented wideout stayed in touch with the team and his QB, working out at TB12 and catching passes from Brady in the offseason.
Last season, the Brady to Gordon connection put up some staggering numbers.
Gordon posted the third-best adjusted net yards per pass attempt figure in the NFL at 11.5, and the highest of any player that has ever caught a pass from Tom Brady (min. 65 targets).
That’s right, higher than both Gronk (11.1) and Randy Moss (9.7), granted in a much smaller sample size.
Note: that Gronk number is just absurd for a player with 785 targets. He was so darn good.
Brady also had a ridiculous 149.3 passer rating on throws to Gordon while under pressure and a 109.9 rating overall on Gordon targets, both of those figures led the team.
And then there’s the traditional stat of yards per reception which Gordon finished second in the NFL only behind speedster DeSean Jackson (18.0).
As you’d expect, it took the Patriots and Gordon a few weeks to get him integrated into the offense.
But once they did, he piled up yards faster than just about any receiver in the league in 2018.
The Patriots’ coaching staff quickly realized that fades or jump balls to Gordon weren’t working.
Brady only completed 26.7 percent of his throws to Gordon on go balls (4-15), which was his worst completion rate on any route that Gordon ran last year.
So the Patriots focused on other ways to get Gordon the ball, mostly at the intermediate level.
For example, on in-cuts or dig routes to Gordon, Brady was 10-13 for 219 yards, one touchdown and a team-best 16.8 yards per attempt.
For years, the NCAA route has been a featured concept in the Patriots’ play-action passing attack.
On this play design, the Patriots open up the middle of the field by displacing the linebackers with play-action and releases into the flats by the underneath receivers. The “Z” receiver runs a deep post pattern which in the example here occupies the single post-safety in the middle of the field. Then, the “X” receiver, Gordon in this case, will run a deep dig route over the middle. With the concept opening the middle of the field, that leaves a massive void for Gordon to run into, and his playmaking takes over from there breaking a few tackles for a 55-yard gain.
(compilation of every slant reception by Josh Gordon in 2018)
Along with dig routes, Gordon was also difficult to defend on slants where Brady was 10-13 for 138 yards and 10.6 yards per attempt.
Gordon’s size and strong hands are perfect for these kinds of routes, and as his chemistry with Brady grew, the two became almost automatic on passes over the middle.
The Patriots offense, even with Gordon, had its ups and downs last season by their prolific standards until things really took off in the AFC playoffs.
Gordon wasn’t apart of that Super Bowl run, but Friday’s news that he’ll be conditionally reinstated is massive for the Patriots.
Second note: reviewing Gordon’s tape from last season makes me think of rookie N’Keal Harry. If it’s not Gordon, it could be Harry on these kinds of routes.