Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas Shine in Patriots Preseason Finale

Tim Kelly
August 30, 2019 - 9:16 am

It's normally foolish to walk away from the final week of the NFL preseason with any meaningful takeaways. But in this case an exception needs to be made, because even with Tom Brady standing on the sideline for the New England Patriots' preseason finale Thursday, Josh McDaniels' offense got excellent performances from a couple of players that could become crucial cogs in helping the team move past Rob Gronkowski's retirement.

The first of those two players — Josh Gordon — shouldn't be especially surprising. The 28-year-old, who was an All-Pro with the Cleveland Browns in 2013, has averaged 17.4 yards-per-reception in 52 career NFL games. When he's been on the field during parts of five NFL seasons, Gordon has delivered elite production.

So perhaps it should have been expected to see Gordon — who earned the nickname "Flash" in Cleveland — well, flash just how good he could be in 2019 in a game where many of the New York Giants defensive starters weren't active:

In his first action this preseason, Gordon caught two passes for 30 yards. A year ago, he hauled in 40 passes for 720 yards in 11 games for the Patriots, who acquired him in a September trade from the Browns. Gordon ultimately missed the Patriots Super Bowl run, though, as he was suspended on Dec. 20 for "violating the terms of his reinstatement under the league's substance abuse policy."

Gordon has dealt with substance abuse issues during his NFL career, which have kept him from consistently being one of the league's elite receivers. He was suspended for the entirety of both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and wasn't made eligible to return to the league until Week 13 of the 2017 season.

While Gordon's production didn't come as a surprise, nine-year NFL veteran Demaryius Thomas stole the show Thursday:

That Thomas, a four-time Pro-Bowler, was able to dominate the a Week 4 preseason game shouldn't be surprising, in theory. But the 31-year-old tore his Achilles last December in a Week 16 loss while playing with the Houston Texans. For him to even be out on the field Thursday, let alone catching two touchdown passes, was an upset given the usual timeline of an Achilles tear.

Thomas, a former favorite target of Peyton Manning in Denver, has 9,330 receiving yards in his NFL career. If Thursday signaled any sort of a potential re-emergence, that's pretty scary when you consider the idea of him playing in an offense that will also include Gordon, Julian Edelman, Sony Michel and, of course, Brady.