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A Different Josh Gordon Showed Up to Chiefs OTAs

Coming off an underwhelming 2021 campaign, Gordon is catching Andy Reid's eye this offseason.

When the Kansas City Chiefs signed wide receiver Josh Gordon during the early stages of the 2021 season, they may not have been expecting a ton immediately. With that said, to argue that the veteran somehow underperformed wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Over the course of the year, Gordon hauled in just five passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. He struggled to get consistent separation against one-on-one coverage, his lackluster route tree limited his effectiveness and he appeared to be a diminished athlete at the age of 30. Heading into an offseason that has seen him turn 31, Gordon was brought back for the 2022 campaign. His roster spot is far from secured, although there are many reasons why he could stick around for a second act with the club. 

Oct 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Josh Gordon before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon's experience, size and contested-catch ability were supposed to come in handy for him a season ago. Instead, it took him a while to adjust to head coach Andy Reid's offense, he didn't move well and he also failed to make those tough, "50/50" catches. As Kansas City wrapped up its third and final round of Organized Team Activities during the week, though, the Gordon hype train regained some momentum. Reid spoke glowingly of his receiver's improvements.

“You guys were out there, you could see that he’s running better, catching better," Reid said. "He’s working hard at all of this. He’s a good kid and he’s smart, so that helps. That’s the way he’s approached this whole thing and he’s getting reps, so he can get himself back where he wants to be.”

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Gordon, who has also spent time with the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, is entering an interesting stage of his career. He's no longer an overpowering presence physically, yet he doesn't have the speed to impact the game via that avenue either. His athletic prime is almost surely behind him, but his age is a bit deceiving. He doesn't have nearly the amount of miles on his body that most 31-year-old wideouts do, largely because of him bouncing in and out of the league over the years. That's something to consider.

Dec 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Josh Gordon (19) celebrates with tight end Travis Kelce (87) after scoring against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Returning on a reserve/futures contract, it didn't cost the Chiefs much to bring Gordon back this offseason. Given how poorly he played in his first stint with the team, however, it's interesting that they opted against simply moving on. The fact that Reid and company expressed interest in another chance could be telling, and Reid's recent praise adds even more fuel to that fire. Reid continued along that same trajectory in his end-of-OTAs presser, going so far as to suggest that Gordon is slimmed down compared to where he was in October, November, December and January.

“It was kind of getting back in the flow of playing the game, and then you’re throwing a whole new offense in the middle of it all, and he has to pick that up," Reid said. "And probably has to work himself into playing shape, just get himself back. It seemed like it was moving fast for him but now it’s kind of slowed down. It looks like he’s doing better after the catch. When he catches the ball, he’s able to maneuver around in space. I think he’s lost a little bit of weight. He was pretty big when he got here – he’s a big guy anyways – but I think he dropped a little bit of weight there too."

The Chiefs' wide receiver corps has seen quite a bit of change this offseason, as the trio of Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson has been replaced by JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore. Where Gordon factors in behind them and Mecole Hardman (if he does at all) remains to be seen, but he's apparently off to a good start here in June. As mandatory minicamp and training camp approach, he'll look to continue standing out to his coaches in the best of ways.