DETROIT -- Josh Gordon likely will not be in the lineup when the regular season begins. But while they do have Gordon, the Cleveland Browns appear prepared to use him.
The Browns' star wide receiver, who continues to await on a verdict on his appeal of a year-long NFL suspension, saw extended action with the first-team offense -- and QB Brian Hoyer -- during Saturday's game in Detroit. Gordon, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin made up the Browns' preferred three-receiver set, with WR Nate Burleson and tight end Jordan Cameron out of the lineup.
Despite being on the field for almost every Cleveland snap early, Gordon needed until the second quarter for his first catch. That 22-yard grab came on a deep crossing pattern, as Gordon easily beat Detroit cornerback Darius Slay to the inside; Hoyer had misfired high on a similar route from Gordon (he came open vs. Rashean Mathis there) to snuff out the Browns' opening drive.
Gordon hauled in catch No. 2 on a quick screen. That play went for 10 yards.
His night ended along with Hoyer's, midway through the second quarter as Johnny Manziel took the field alongside Cleveland's second-team offense.
And now the Browns will cross their fingers that this appearance did not mark the last time Gordon will be part of the starting lineup this season. Gordon had his appeal heard prior to the start of the preseason, in hopes of either reducing or expunging altogether his existing punishment. A report Thursday indicated Gordon and the NFL have not yet discussed the possibility of a settlement, which no doubt would chop some games off Gordon's suspension.
Regardless of whether Hoyer or Manziel claims the Browns' starting gig, his job would be made much easier with Gordon on the field. Despite serving a two-game suspension to open the 2013 season, Gordon led the league in receiving with 1,646 yards.
Cleveland already has depth issues to deal with at the receiver spot, barring incredible resurgences from Burleson or Austin, or unexpected breakthroughs by the likes of Anthony Armstrong or Charles Johnson. Being able to use Gordon for even half a season would be a victory at this point.
For the time being, though, Cleveland is operating as if Gordon will be available moving forward -- no matter how unlikely that prospect may be.