Wide receivers acquired after a certain date have a storied history of struggling with the New England Patriots. And that’s putting it nicely.
We went over this ad nauseam back in late August when reports emerged the Patriots were interested in acquiring a top-notch receiving talent. Those reports came true when the Patriots traded a fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Josh Gordon and a seventh-round pick after Week 2.
Gordon bucked the trend. He’s certainly not struggling.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound wide receiver has 31 catches for 547 yards with two touchdowns in eight games this season. It’s pretty easy, even for a certain reporter who didn’t take a single math course in college, to do the math that Gordon would be up over 1,000 yards with those numbers extrapolated over 16 games.
Even in just eight games, Gordon is having the best season of any new receiver the Patriots have acquired over the summer or after a season began who didn’t have a previous tenure in New England (those qualifiers remove Deion Branch, who was reacquired in 2010 after a stint with the Seattle Seahawks). The Patriots’ install their offense during training camp. Because they run a complex offense, it’s hard to get caught up after missing any part of that process.
Here’s Gordon’s competition:
Andre Davis, 2002: 9 receptions: 190 yards, one touchdown
Doug Gabriel, 2006: 25 catches, 344 yards, three touchdowns
Chad Johnson, 2011: 15 catches, 276 yards, one touchdown
Greg Salas, 2012: No catches in one game
Keshawn Martin, 2015: 24 catches, 269 yards, two touchdowns
Phillip Dorsett, 2017: 12 catches, 194 yards, no touchdowns
Running back Danny Woodhead also had 34 catches for 379 yards with one touchdown after being acquired early in the 2010 season. Tight end Tim Wright caught 26 passes for 259 yards with six touchdowns after being acquired in a trade after training camp in 2014.
And this isn’t even mentioning guys like Reggie Wayne and Eric Decker who never even made it out of camp.
One can pretty easily argue Gordon is a special case because he’s more talented than any of the players listed above. But he’s beat the odds in his own set of circumstances. Prior to this season, Gordon hadn’t played more than five consecutive games since 2013 after being suspended by the NFL numerous times for failing drug tests.
The Patriots were expected by those less optimistic to get, at most, a handful of games from Gordon before his latest expected transgression. So far — knock on wood — that hasn’t happened yet.
Even in half a season, Gordon has proven that a wide receiver, if talented enough, can come to New England and succeed without the benefit of learning the playbook during the spring and summer months.
Gordon has proven the Patriots can be willing to simplify and tailor their playbook to fit a new player into their offense. And Gordon has proven quarterback Tom Brady can be patient with a new target if the receiver is talented enough.
Gordon currently is on pace for a 906-yard season. If he can average 87.2 yards over the final five games of the 2018 season, he’d hit 1,000. That would be quite a cap to a season in which Gordon has already bucked the odds.