Nationals

Gordon flashing for recharged Browns

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Gordon flashing for recharged Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Josh Gordon arrived at training camp out of shape, unfamiliar with the Browns' playbook and saddled with personal baggage from a troubled college career.

Another lost rookie, Gordon was way behind.

He's caught up.

``He's our top receiver right now,'' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said.

With a long, elegant stride and deceiving speed, the 21-year-old Gordon has emerged as Cleveland's biggest deep threat, perhaps the club's best playmaker and maybe the end of the Browns' search for a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, something they haven't had in years.

Gordon, blessed with enormous talent, is the whole package.

``He's big and he's fast and he can catch,'' said Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

Gordon had the best game of his brief career last Sunday, catching six passes for 116 yards and one touchdown as the Browns ended a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders. It was a breakout performance for Gordon, who was taken in the second round of the NFL's supplemental draft in July by the Browns, who were criticized for a selection many considered too risky.

Gordon, though, has made general manager Tom Heckert's gamble pay off.

The Browns haven't had a receiver with comparable, game-breaking skills to Gordon since Braylon Edwards, who had 16 TD receptions in 2007 but then tailed off quickly and was eventually traded. Gordon has five TDs this season, the most by a Browns rookie since Andre' Davis in 2002.

And he's hungry for more.

``He's starting to get a feel for what he can do,'' Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. ``The sky is the limit for that guy. He's talented, he's tall, he's long, he's fast. He can catch the ball well. He does all the things you would want.

``I'm glad he's on our side.''

While Gordon was the subject of many conversations inside the Browns' facility and locker room this week, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder kept a low profile. That's how it's been since he was drafted by Cleveland, which forfeited a second-round pick in 2013 to get him.

Gordon is quiet, polite and refreshingly unassuming.

``It's just me being me,'' he said.

He came with questions surrounding his character. Gordon was dismissed from Baylor's team after being suspended twice for marijuana use, and then he didn't play after transferring to Utah, where he failed another drug test. He hasn't had any problems as a pro, and that's how Gordon intends to keep it.

Gordon knows there are some who expect him to fail. He uses that as motivation.

``There's a lot more eyes on me compared to other guys,'' he said. ``A lot of people either expect a downfall or expect another type of mess-up or are waiting for a slipup. I came in trying to be mature about it, and that's how I approach it every day. I watch the guys ahead of me, the veteran guys and see how they carry themselves and how I should do the same.''

Gordon has leaned on Jackson, tight end Ben Watson and wide receiver Josh Cribbs for advice and guidance. They've explained to him the importance of working hard, using his free time wisely and striving to be consistent - on and off the field.

Gordon is following their lead. He's growing up.

There have been no missteps, just positive strides forward.

``He's young,'' Cribbs said. ``He has an opportunity to right the ship. Nobody cares about how you fall down, it's about how you get back up. He's done a great job of bouncing back from anything that might have happened in his past and you don't see it in his future and that's a great thing.

``He's still a kid.''

Gordon's ability to get deep is transforming the Browns' offense. With his ability to run past a cornerback, defenses must keep a safety back to protect against a long completion. By drawing two defenders, underneath passing routes open as do running lanes.

Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress has noticed defenses paying more attention to Gordon, who is averaging 19 yards per catch and 46 yards on his TD grabs.

``You kind of want to know where that guy's at,'' Childress said.

Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown saw Gordon's potential immediately. Early in training camp, Brown, an 11-year veteran who knows every trick in the book, was covering Gordon and thought he had the youngster bottled up.

``I had perfect coverage and he stuck one hand out and catches the ball,'' Brown said. ``He'll make a few plays in this league. The sky is the limit for him. He's still learning, but he's a talent. I just want to see him continue to grow and continue to gain confidence because he can be very special.''

Brown isn't alone in his appraisal.

While other teams passed on Gordon, the Browns dared to look deeper and took a chance on him.

He doesn't want to let them down.

``It meant a lot to me,'' he said. ``I never will forget it and I'm always grateful for it. I think about it every day and it's why I have the attitude I have. I don't want to take anything for granted and keep going as hard as I can. I never want to feel complacent or content in any aspect of the game.

``As soon as you do that, that's when something will go wrong.''

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NOTES: T Joe Thomas was named the Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year, one day after blasting former teammate Peyton Hillis, who will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Thomas is the team's first two-time winner of the award, which recognizes performance and community service. ... For the second day in a row, all 53 players on the active roster practiced. .. Childress acknowledged testifying earlier this week in the Saints' ongoing bounty probe. Then the former Minnesota coach was one of the first to alert the NFL of a possible problem after Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was roughed up in the 2010 NFC Championship.

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This time, closer Sean Doolittle costs the Nationals a game

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This time, closer Sean Doolittle costs the Nationals a game

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-1, Wednesday to drop their record to 19-30. Here are five observations from the game…

1.  What to say when the only person to trust can’t deliver?

That’s the status for these Washington Nationals, now 11 games under .500 after Sean Doolittle's worst outing since arriving in Washington, sliding further and further away, unable to stumble into wins and only capable of hunting down ways to lose.

A night after curious bullpen usage, manager Davey Martinez dispatched his knee-quaking posse of relievers in superior fashion.

Joe Ross opened the seventh with an out. Matt Grace followed with two. Six outs to go in a 1-0 game for the league’s worst bullpen.

Kyle Barraclough started the eighth. He struck out J.D. Davis. Adelny Hechavarria doubled, though the ball should have been caught by Juan Soto. Pete Alonso grounded out. Todd Frazier came to the plate and options arrived. A mound visit was followed by a four-pitch walk to Frazier. Doolittle entered the game to face light-hitting veteran Carlos Gomez. Stomach-churning chaos followed.

Doolittle hit him with his first pitch -- his first beaned batter of the year and first since May 29, 2018. Juan Lagares doubled two pitches later to clear the bases. Wilson Ramos was intentionally walked. Pinch-hitter Rajai Davis hit a three-run homer two pitches into his at-bat.

That was the end for Doolittle, who walked off the mound with a stunned look. The one reliable piece in the league’s worst bullpen had as disastrous a night as possible, flushing Max Scherzer’s start, throwing aside rare quality work from other relievers, sending the Nationals to their fourth consecutive loss in this can’t-get-right season.

2. Scherzer needed 109 pitches to make it through six innings. The most important of those was his final one. The 11-pitch sixth gave the Nationals three fewer outs to pawn off on the bullpen. Scherzer opened the inning at 98 pitches before briskly working through Todd Frazier, Carlos Gomez and Juan Lagares.

He allowed four hits, struck out nine and walked two. The night drove Scherzer’s ERA down to 3.41.

Why was Scherzer back to the mound after 98 pitches in five innings? Because of losses six weeks ago, three weeks ago, last week and this week. A team 10 games under .500 has to squeeze everything it can out of its ace on May 22. Time for a margin of error has eroded. What happened back then (losing series to Miami, for instance) piles up to have a grand influence on later.

3. Grace has been used as a matchup left-hander recently. He’s found that life more appealing.

Grace matched up with Cubs left-hander Anthony Rizzo and recorded an out Sunday. He faced Robinson Cano on Tuesday to pick up a ground out. Wednesday, Grace was brought in to face left-handed pinch-hitter Dominic Smith. Smith grounded out to first. Grace remained in to face Amed Rosario and recorded another ground ball out.

The Nationals are trying to put Grace in spots to get his feet back on the ground after a night as the punching bag at the end of a blowout loss against the Chicago Cubs last Friday (and a down season overall). So far, this role has been better.

4. Remember the extended minor-league assignments for after players were hurt? That’s gone. And the results are not great.

Matt Adams was activated Wednesday. Adrian Sanchez was sent to Double-A Harrisburg to make room on the 25-man roster.

Adams did all his rehabilitation work with the major-league team. He took batting practice on the field and in the batting cages before that. He also took ground balls and infield practice. What he didn’t do was go on a minor-league assignment despite not playing since May 3. The Nationals judged him ready to play because his swing looked in place against a pitching machine.

Wednesday, he made a crucial error in the first inning. Robinson Cano rolled a small ground ball to first, Adams fielded, pivoted and threw toward second base, where the runner on first was heading. The ball never came close to the bag. It went to the outfield instead, which presented the Mets with runners on second and third and one out instead of a runner on first and one out (or a chance at a longshot double play). It, most importantly, cost Scherzer more pitches.

Scherzer pitched his way out of it as he often has this season. He came into the game leading the league in FIP (fielding-independent pitching).

Trea Turner played just two games for Triple-A Potomac after missing seven weeks. Asked how many games he would have preferred to play there, Turner said one. He made two wayward throws his first game back with the Nationals.

So, instantly putting these guys back on the field -- which is every player’s preference and a spot the Nationals’ record has leveraged them into -- is not ideal.

5.  Kyle McGowin will start Friday. His visit to the rotation is expected to be temporary.

McGowin will pitch in Jeremy Hellickson’s spot. He was up to give length in the bullpen. Like Erick Fedde, he’ll be drawn away from the relievers to fill a rotation spot.

McGowin is a sinker-ball pitcher. He made one start at the end of last season. He also is currently suspended by the Pacific Coast League after a substance was found in his glove following an inspection by umpires during his last outing.

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Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Two days after losing Reuben Foster for the year, the Redskins made a move to at least provide reinforcements to a weakened linebacker group.

On Wednesday, Washington announced that they have signed Jon Bostic, a six-year veteran. The 'Skins also officially placed Foster on injured reserve.

Bostic was a 2013 second-round pick of the Bears out of Florida. He's since bounced around to New England, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, where he started 14 times for the Steelers in 2018 and posted 73 tackles. He's been traded twice in his career and missed all of 2016 with a foot injury. 

So, what does the move accomplish for the Redskins?

Well, Bostic — or any other free agent signing at this point — isn't going to have close to the level of talent and potential that Foster had. However, getting another option at linebacker was necessary for the Burgundy and Gold, and the 28-year-old has played in 30 contests over the past two years, so he's relatively established. 

Yes, he's far from a gamechanger, considering he has just one interception and 5.5 sacks as a pro. But he's regarded as a solid run defender and tackler and should at least push Mason Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton. His presence also could alleviate some of the pressure that would've been on rookie Cole Holcomb. 

Signing a defender who's been with five franchises in six years isn't exactly inspiring, but Bostic has experience as a starter and could give the Redskins useful snaps on first and second down at a minimum. Now it's on him to take advantage of the opportunity he's been given.

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