FOXBORO, Mass. — Back in December 2013, the 9-3 New England Patriots welcomed the 4-8 Cleveland Browns to Gillette Stadium for what proved to be an unexpectedly memorable football game.
That was the game in which the Patriots scored two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds of regulation to avoid what would have been a major upset after losing star tight end Rob Gronkowski to a torn ACL. It also featured an incredible individual performance by Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who thoroughly dominated Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib to the tune of seven catches on 10 targets for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Eighty of those yards came on one play — a quick slant against Talib that Gordon took to the house. He also ripped off a 34-yard rush in the Browns’ 27-26 loss.
Safety Duron Harmon, who was a Patriots rookie that year, hopes Gordon can recapture some of that magic for New England, which swung a trade for the troubled 27-year-old wideout Monday afternoon.
“He had a lot of yards,” Harmon said shortly after the trade was announced. “I do remember that. He had a breakaway slant against Talib that showed the speed and athleticism. He had a lot of good catches with Talib all on him. I mean, we all know what type of player he is. Hopefully, he comes here and does a lot of those plays for us.”
Gordon was incredibly productive in 2013 (87 catches, 1,646 yards, nine touchdowns in 14 games) but has played in just 11 of a possible 66 games since following repeated violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He played in Cleveland’s 2018 season opener and caught a touchdown pass but didn’t suit up Sunday in Week 2 after injuring his hamstring during a promotional photo shoot.
Despite this baggage, Gordon is a physical specimen who could boost the Patriots’ downfield passing game, which struggled in Sunday’s 31-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“If he can help us win, it’s always great,” Harmon said. “We all know he’s a great talent. I’m looking forward to meeting him, becoming teammates with him. I’m pretty sure I’ll meet him soon, but I’m excited to have him here and help us win games.”
Gordon joins a depleted Patriots receiving corps that features Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson. The suspended Julian Edelman is scheduled to rejoin that group in Week 5.
The Patriots have brought in numerous receivers over the past few months in an attempt to bolster that unit following the offseason departures of Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, but Patterson is the lone newcomer who’s stuck around. Since cutdown day, four Patriots wideouts have been released before playing in a single game for the team, with ex-Brown Corey Coleman joining that list Monday to make room for Gordon on the 53-man roster.
Dorsett addressed reporters before the Patriots had announced the trade, so he did not want to speak at length about what Gordon will bring to the team. He did say adding a player of Gordon’s caliber “would be great,” however.
“I mean, it’s obviously known that he’s a freakish athlete,” Dorsett said.