Allen Park — For one reason or another, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick continued to play coy about his team’s addition of wide receiver Josh Gordon earlier this week.
Even after both the Patriots and the league officially announced the trade prior to a Wednesday conference call with Detroit media, Belichick refused to answer questions about Gordon because the “process hasn’t been completed.”
Of course, Gordon was on the practice field with his new club less than an hour later, so we’re safe with the working assumption the talented, but troubled receiver will suit up for New England this Sunday when the team travels to Detroit to battle the Lions.
Gordon’s talent never has been in question. For a brief stretch, the 2013 season, he looked like the best receiver on the planet, racking up 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games.
Then serving as the Patriots defensive coordinator, Lions coach Matt Patricia has some not-so-fond memories from that season.
“Unfortunately I remember him running a slant route against press coverage going about 80 yards for a touchdown,” Patricia said. “He’s a really big guy, he’s strong, he runs really good routes, he’s got good hands and he’s really fast. So, he just does a good job getting off press, he was able to create separation, and then it was just an explosive play right away. So, you definitely don’t forget those plays.”
But Gordon’s battle with addiction, and repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse program, have derailed his promising career. He's been limited to just 11 games since that breathtaking campaign five years ago.
The Patriots are rolling the dice on the now 27-year-old receiver, still in the heart of his prime, hoping those troubles are under control.
His addition to the roster adds a complex dimension to this week’s game plan, a wrench in what would have otherwise been an extremely familiar opponent and scheme to Patricia.
“Yeah, that’s a little bit tricky,” Patricia said. “Obviously, the guy is very dynamic. He’s an explosive player. So, you do have to account for it. You have to be ready for certain plays that you think are kind of core to what he runs, kind of the basic stuff that he does really well. And I’m sure they will get him those situations where he can succeed.
“You have to really study him as a player, study the routes he runs well, how they might use him and be ready to defend those,” Patricia said. “And then after that you’re going to have to adjust with the game.”
Prior to the Gordon addition, the Patriots’ passing game had been laboring. The team ranks 18th in yardage as it continues to navigate through Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension. The team’s top two pass catchers are non-receivers, tight end Rob Gronkowski (138 yards) and running back James White (111).
Phillip Dorsett, acquired in a trade last season, is pacing the team’s receivers with 12 catches for 110 yards and a score.