Rookie wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden made his first NFL catch on Sunday. He gained three yards.
It was completely non-descript, and for almost everyone outside of the Gandy-Golden family, probably nobody will remember it.
That catch, however, signaled something bigger for the fourth-round rookie and Washington Football. The team desperately needs Gandy-Golden to emerge, even if it's not right now, then in the second half of the season.
Washington has a legit No. 1 wideout in Terry McLaurin, but after a knee injury to second-year WR Kelvin Harmon, the team has no real threat opposite McLaurin. Steve Sims is a decent player with superior quickness, but his size predicted that most of his play come from the slot. Dontrelle Inman is an undrafted seven-year journeyman, and while he can be useful, he's not the answer.
Gandy-Golden got drafted to be that answer, even if the Washington staff understood it could take time.
Circumstances have stacked up against Gandy-Golden too. Coming from a small school, he needed all the offseason work he could get, but because of COVID, there was no offseason. Then when training camp finally arrived, he suffered a concussion and missed time. He didn't play Week 1, and got on the field for just a handful of snaps Week 2.
“It was good to get him in the game. I know he played I think only six plays, but you know when you’re a young player it’s not the easiest thing. These guys, they’re human," Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. "They’ve got the transition of going from a school like Liberty and working in training camp, missing time and then coming to play."
There's also a reason Washington drafted Gandy-Golden. He has size - 6-foot-4, 223 lbs - and speed - 4.6 40-yard dash - enough to get scouts to pay attention, and his game tape from Liberty shows the ability to make plays on contested catches and down the field.
Still, it's a big change to go from Liberty University to the NFL. A big change.
"We’d like to kind of build that up as we go. What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to throw anyone in there too early and have them where it’s a negative deal and that could affect the long-term," Turner said. "We want these guys to be players for us for a long time and we’re going to go about it the right way.”
Earlier this week Washington head coach Ron Rivera made a passionate explanation that he's working to build his young Washington squad for the long haul, not looking for quick gains. Turner's answer on Gandy-Golden sounds nearly identical.
At some point, the Burgundy and Gold need playmakers on offense beyond just Terry McLaurin. The team wants Gandy-Golden to join that list, but don't expect that to happen too soon.