Three weeks in, the New England Patriots’ return on the Josh Gordon trade has been favorable, to say the least.
Gordon has four catches for 82 yards with one touchdown in just 36 offensive snaps with the Patriots. He’s averaging 3.04 yards per route run in two games. That ranks fourth among NFL receivers with more than one route run.
But Gordon’s time with the Patriots understandably hasn’t been entirely perfect. There have been a couple instances of miscommunication between Gordon and quarterback Tom Brady that have led to incomplete passes. That’s to be expected for a new receiver in the Patriots’ offense, which relies on reading the defense on the fly and being on the same page as Brady.
Brady threw an incomplete pass to Gordon on second-and-10 with 8:42 left in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 38-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
Gordon, lined up in the “X” role on the right side of the offense, was running a crossing route against zone coverage. Brady expected him to stop his route when he had reached a gap in the coverage.
Instead, Gordon kept moving, and Brady’s pass came in low and behind the receiver.
This is what Brady expected Gordon to do:
With 12:42 left in the third quarter, Julian Edelman was running a crossing route against zone defense.
Since Edelman was facing a soft coverage, he stopped his route.
Brady hit Edelman for a short gain.
Watch Edelman’s catch here. It’s at the 51-second mark:
The Patriots, especially Edelman, run these sit-down routes frequently. Brady hit Edelman on multiple seam routes when Edelman sat down midway through his route when facing soft zone coverage. Watch the first, second and fifth receptions in this clip:
While we’re on the subject of Edelman, he already started taking attention off other receivers in the Patriots’ offense.
With 1:37 left in the first quarter, Edelman ran another seam sit-down route. He drew the attention of three defenders, while no one immediately picked up running back James White out of the backfield.
Brady hit White for the touchdown.
Gordon will learn the intricacies of the Patriots’ offense in time. But Gordon’s physical skill-set can’t be taught.
On first-and-10 with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter and the Colts still trying to claw back, Brady dropped back to pass with the Patriots in 11 personnel with Gordon, Edelman, wide receiver Chris Hogan, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Sony Michel on the field. Brady’s blockers gave him an incredible 7 seconds of protection, but no one was getting open downfield.
Brady threw up a prayer in the end zone to Gordon, who was double covered. Gordon powered through Colts cornerback Christopher Milton to make the touchdown catch.
Watch Gordon’s entire route on that play here.
Here are the rest of our film review observations:
— Brady hasn’t been sacked for eight quarters. Not bad for the Nate Solder-less Patriots’ offensive line, which certainly has let up pressure but kept their quarterback clean.
— Running back Sony Michel looks to have added some more burst. He’s either knocked the rust off his knee, or he’s running with more confidence. Or, you know, it’s a combination of both.
— White, who had 10 catches for 77 yards with a touchdown Thursday night, might be the best third-down back in Patriots history. Kevin Faulk has the longevity, but he only had double-digit receptions in a game once in his career. White has done it four times now, including in Super Bowl LI.
— If Gordon emerges as a starter, then Hogan or Phillip Dorsett would lose a top role. Dorsett has been more dependable thus far.
— I thought Edelman would play a lot, and he played even more than I expected. I figured he would play 50 to 60 percent of snaps. He wound up on the field for nearly 70 percent.
— Second-year defensive tackle Adam Butler continues to make plays. He sniffed out a screen and chased down Nyheim Hines for a loss. He also had a batted pass at the line.
— Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. is still inconsistent. He didn’t generate a single pressure and was knocked back by wide receiver Chester Rogers on a crackdown block during a 5-yard first-down carry by Hines.
— Felger and Mazz might have unleashed a monster when they took unsolicited shots at Kyle Van Noy. The Patriots’ linebacker is playing out of his mind this season, especially in the running game, where he’s consistently making big stops.
— Stephon Gilmore leads the NFL in pass breakups after recording three Thursday night. He and Jason McCourty have been phenomenal at perimeter cornerback. Slot cornerback Jonathan Jones is targeted often but is a solid open-field tackler.
— Devin McCourty had a rough outing, allowing nine catches and two touchdowns. He also made what likely will go down as one of the best plays of the season, when he stripped and recovered a Jordan Wilkins fumble in one motion.