New England

First Connection: Gordon's Locker Next to Brady's

Rocking a No. 10 jersey during the media availability at Wednesday afternoon’s practice, wide receiver Josh Gordon, the capital T for Talented and Troubled former Cleveland Brown, took the field for the Patriots.

Gordon had played in 11 of a possible 66 games for Cleveland since his First Team All-Pro campaign in 2013. That year, his second in the NFL, he caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards in just 14 games from a group of uninspiring quarterbacks including Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and current Patriots backup Brian Hoyer.

The story of Gordon’s struggles with addiction began long before he looked primed to become one of the top wide receivers in the NFL and has taken all kinds of twists and turns since, including multiple suspensions from the league and stints in rehab.

On top of maintaining his sobriety – unquestionably, his top priority – the latest chapter for Gordon has him tasked with being a savior of sorts for New England’s beleaguered wide receiver corps.

The Patriots have made some 28 transactions involving a wide receiver since the league year began in March, far and away the most in the NFL during said timeframe.

Bringing in Gordon is a desperate measure before New England reaches truly desperate times. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett have had their moments of productivity through two games for the Patriots, and Julian Edelman’s exile ends after Week 4. Throw in the presence of Rob Gronkowski at tight end and James White out of the backfield, and suddenly the weapons at Tom Brady’s disposal has morphed from a potential weakness to a rock-solid strength. 

“He’s a really good player and it’s good to have him here,” Gronkowski said.

That’s if Gordon has anything left in the tank. Because again, all that should really matter for Gordon is getting his life back on track and leaving the demons of his addiction that have haunted him since middle school in the past.

Does Gordon care about winning? Who knows, because he’s never had the motivation to get clean for winning’s sake. Since the Browns took Gordon in the supplemental draft in 2012, they’re 20-75-1. They went 1-15 in 2016 before going winless last season.

New England’s Super Bowl prospects don’t necessarily rest on Gordon’s success; look no further than Sunday’s 31-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars to realize it’s the defense of the Patriots that needs to shape up.

The track record of receivers finding their way in Foxboro in Year 1 is few and far between. Coming into the building two weeks into the regular season just amps up the degree of difficulty even more, and when you throw in everything else on Gordon’s plate? The odds are stacked against him having an impact here.

Just about anyone who’s drawn comparisons to Randy Moss is worth rolling the dice on though – and that’s just in regards to their physical attributes. Moss, too, once came to New England with his own set of baggage. The results? The greatest offense the NFL had ever seen to date.

Gordon’s new locker at Gillette Stadium is conveniently located next to Brady’s stall. With plenty of other lockers available given the never-ending turnstile of roster movement, that’s no accident.

The Patriots gave up a 2019 fifth-round pick to acquire Gordon; if he’s inactive for 10 games the rest of the way, New England recuperates a seventh-rounder in next year’s draft from Cleveland.

The risk was minimal, the reward enormous. This is Josh Gordon’s last chance, but no doubt his greatest chance.

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