In March, JuJu signed a one-year $10.75 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Playing with Patrick Mahomes, that is his prove-it-or-lose- season. There aren’t any extra excuses if JuJu doesn’t play as much as No. 1 receiver requirements when the very best younger quarterback of this era is throwing him spirals.
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JuJu has blown up the league earlier than, but when he squinted too laborious within the large receiver’s room on the man who wore No. 12, he may need seen the Ghost of Christmas Future staring again. It’s been 9 years since Josh Gordon burst into the NFL consciousness with a 1,400-yard, nine-touchdown season in 2013. Due to a sequence of suspensions on account of repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse insurance policies, Gordon hasn’t eclipsed 1,000 yards since then. Earlier this week, Gordon was launched. JuJu isn’t susceptible to falling off the NFL radar like Gordon. He’s 5 years youthful, stayed clear off the sphere, and one way or the other nonetheless holds the NFL report for the youngest participant to succeed in 2,500 profession receiving yards. However, his incapability to duplicate 2018 is the same supply of frustration.
Something comparable occurred with JuJu at USC. His sophomore breakout JuJu reeled in 89 catches, greater than twice as a lot as USC’s No. 2 cross catcher and 1,454 yards, 1,000 extra yards than second-leading receiver Adoree’ Jackson. His output diminished throughout his junior yr because the Trojans appeared to diversify their offense and considerations about JuJu’s top-end velocity led to him plummeting into the tip of the second spherical the place he was scooped up by Pittsburgh.
Their pedigrees couldn’t be extra totally different, but there’s a litany of parallels between Gordon and JuJu. Gordon’s 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns is the idiot’s gold commonplace of one-year marvel campaigns — particularly for large receivers. Taken within the 2011 Supplemental Draft after catching solely 43 passes for 721 yards in his school profession, Gordon skilled modest success as a rookie, however no one noticed his 2013 explosion coming. A league-leading 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns in 14 video games lit the NFL on hearth. But like a meteor getting into the environment, Gordon burned out upon entry.
Whether it’s a results of accidents, suspensions, or simply defenses catching up, NFL historical past is suffering from “now you see ‘em, now you don’t” abilities who tantalized after which sank again into obscurity.
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Peyton Hillis’ 1,200-yard season in 2010 made him some of the unlikely Madden cowl athletes ever. Ickey Woods’ 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns en path to the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl XXIII berth, and Larry Brown’s Super Bowl MVP to cap off the 1995 season are a few of the most notable flash-in-the-pan runs to the Big Game in league historical past.
JuJu had a passing second of greatness in 2018. That yr, his teammate Antonio Brown was the quilt athlete on Madden after which reached 10,000 yards in fewer video games as a receiver moreover Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones. However, JuJu’s emergence was the spotlight of that marketing campaign.
JuJu’s second season witnessed him rising from the shadow of Brown as he hauled in 111 catches for 1,426 yards. The Steelers have been so assured in JuJu, that Brown despatched a top-three receiver within the NFL strolling. However, JuJu has faltered with the load of the highest decide on his shoulders.
Three seasons later, JuJu is understood extra for his TikToks than his pass-catching prowess. In his first full season because the go-to receiver, JuJu recorded a career-low 552 yards whereas enjoying via a toe damage and sprained MCL. Pittsburgh chalked up his disappointing efficiency to JuJu’s injury-riddled season and the truth that he was catching passes from profession backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. JuJu spent a lot of his final two seasons in Pittsburgh watching Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool eat his targets. The skinny on JuJu is that he maxed out as a No. 2 receiver alongside an all-time nice, however as soon as coverages and prime cornerbacks fixated on him, he lacked the approach or bodily attributes to thrive.
There are some variations that ought to give JuJu believers hope. In 2022, JuJu has a chance to return to glory as Mahomes’ prime goal. Replacing Tyreek Hill might be an insanely troublesome activity. It will take a composite of Skyy Moore, Marquez-Valdes Scantling, and Mecole Hardman to equal Tyreek Hill. Hardman has blazing velocity, however his route operating approach leaves a lot to be desired. Valdes-Scantling has at all times been a bundle of potential with out the breakout yr to point out for it.
If there’s anybody who can put a defibrillator to JuJu’s profession the identical means Tyreek Hill is trying to awaken Tua’s, it’s Patrick Mahomes. JuJu’s in a greater place now. But he’ll need to show to remain there previous this season.