Wizards

Colts RB Donald Brown making most of 2nd chance

201210281429521527100-p2.jpeg

Colts RB Donald Brown making most of 2nd chance

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) When Donald Brown was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, the expectations soared.

The numbers did not.

Now, after three mostly disappointing seasons, Brown is getting a second chance to show the Colts what he can do for them - and he hasn't even let a midseason knee surgery get in the way.

``It's just a matter of staying positive, staying confident,'' Brown said Wednesday. ``It (the injury) was frustrating, but you have to realize that `I'm going to come back.' You know it could have been worse, it could have been season-ending, but it wasn't.''

Instead, the often overlooked and overshadowed Brown returned from the torn cartilage faster and stronger than anyone anticipated. The injury occurred Oct. 7 on a last-minute 2-point conversion run that helped the Colts (4-3) complete a stunning rally to beat Green Bay 30-27.

At the time, few even noticed as a wild celebration ensued and the postgame chatter focused almost exclusively on what the win meant for their missing coach, Chuck Pagano, who had just been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Brown had surgery a couple of days later and missed the next two games.

When he returned Sunday at Tennessee, Brown looked as if he hadn't missed a play. He ran 14 times for 80 yards and was Indy's overtime workhorse, running the ball on six consecutive plays before giving way to Vick Ballard and Ballard's incredible 4 1/2-yard, twisting dive to win the game.

Those who know Brown best expected nothing less.

``I liked Donald coming out (of college),'' said interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was with Pittsburgh then. ``I thought he was a hard downhill runner with great speed. He has shown flashes of that speed for us and I love speed. He is more than a professional, he's a top-notch pro. He's more than prepared every week. He prepares the young guys. He's a great leader in his room and he's an explosive player and you can't have enough of those.''

It's just taken Brown longer than expected to become the Colts' primary runner.

Part of the problem was bad luck.

After selecting Brown and essentially naming him the future successor to Joseph Addai, Brown fought a constant battle to stay healthy. He was inactive for five games as a rookie, three more in Year 2 and became a regular on Indy's weekly injury report even when he played.

All along, Brown's demeanor never changed. He kept watching film, trying to improve and picking up tidbits that he figured would be beneficial when his next opportunity came along.

That happened last season when Brown carried 134 times for 645 yards, scored five touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. It was the first time Brown played in all 16 games and the numbers were career bests, though his success was again overlooked in the midst of a dismal 2-14 season that gave Indy the No. 1 draft pick.

But when Pagano and his new staff arrived in Indy, they wanted Brown to understand he'd be a key cog in this rebuilding project. At one point, Arians and Brown sat down to talk strategy and agreed to use some of the running plays that had made Brown such a productive runner at UConn.

``His system is very similar to what we ran in college, very familiar,'' Brown said, referring to Arians. ``We were on the same page.''

Initially, Brown and the Colts struggled.

After turning Andrew Luck's first preseason pass, a short screen into a long touchdown, Brown rushed for only 155 yards on his first 43 regular-season carries. In Week 5, following a bye, Brown ran 17 times for 84 yards against Green Bay and produced similar numbers against Tennessee last weekend.

What changed?

``Some of those things we don't do as much anymore because it didn't fit what our offensive line could do,'' Arians explained. ``He (Brown) has adapted to some of the things that they do well and as long as the line blocks well and the tight ends block well, he'll find a hole. He likes the power-gap stuff which he did a ton in college. We wanted to do that, we're still doing some of it, but not as much as we did in (training) camp.''

The other pieces are falling into place, too.

Since Brown got hurt, Ballard, a rookie, has carried 40 for 164 yards. Carter, too, has hung onto the ball and is averaging 3.6 yards per carry, and his late 1-yard scoring plunge last weekend wound up sending the game into overtime.

Suddenly, the usually pass-first Colts are averaging 119.8 yards rushing, and it's made a big difference.

``It's awesome,'' Andrew Luck said. ``When he (Arians) can keep calling runs and be confident in us, it's a lot of fun to be an offensive lineman.''

Or, in this case, it's awesome to be Brown.

``Whatever the situation is,'' he said, ``you just want to make the most of it.''

NOTES: Arians ruled two starters, TE Coby Fleener and CB Vontae Davis, out of Sunday's game. Fleener injured his left shoulder and Davis hurt his left knee in the win at Tennessee. ... At Wednesday's practice LB Pat Angerer wore a boot to protect the right foot he injured during training camp and LB Jerrell Freeman wore a boot on his left foot. Both are starters.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Mystics win fourth straight, beat Sky 81-74

elena_delle_donne.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Mystics win fourth straight, beat Sky 81-74

 In their second victory against the Chicago Sky this season, Elena Delle Donne dominated once again.

In 33 minutes of play, the star forward racked up 22 points, seven rebounds and 9 of 15 field goals against her former team. She led the Mystics in points and rebounds. 

Tianna Hawkins brought a spark off the bench, tallying 15 points, four rebounds, six of ten field goals and a +11 differential in just 18 minutes of play. 

The Mystics won all four games on this road trip, tying their season-high win streak from earlier this season. Washington is now 8-3 as they head home to host the Connecticut Sun, who just snapped a seven-game win streak.

MORE MYSTICS NEWS:

Quick Links

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

final_gunnarsson_vs_donskoi_dnp_until_6-26.jpg
NBC Sports Washington

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:

MORE CAPITALS NEWS