Washington Football

Josh Brown makes strong NFL return with Bengals

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Josh Brown makes strong NFL return with Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) Light rain had just ended when Josh Brown lined up for a 52-yard field goal try in the third quarter, the game on the line. For the last three months, he'd hoped for this test.

Made it with room to spare.

Brown connected on all four of his field goal tries for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, including that 52-yarder in the third quarter of a 20-19 loss to Dallas. The Cowboys won it with a field goal of their own as time ran out.

For Brown, it was a solid first step in trying to show the rest of the NFL that he's not finished.

``It's a positive note,'' Brown said. ``It just reassures you that you're not done playing yet. To be able to bang out a 52-yarder and to do it with confidence - it's all reassuring that I'm moving on the right path to getting back in the NFL.''

The 4-for-4 performance just might jump-start his career, even if it turns out to be his only game with Cincinnati.

The Bengals needed a kicker on short notice when Mike Nugent hurt his right calf during practice last week. They brought in several kickers for a tryout, and Brown won them over with his consistency.

He'd been trying to get another chance since the Jets released him at the end of training camp, keeping his leg in shape by kicking three times a week on the West Coast. There was a lot of pressure on him Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium - the Bengals (7-6) are in the thick of the AFC wild card chase.

Brown was good from 25, 33, 25 and 52 yards, bailing out an offense that stalled near the goal line. If Cincinnati would have held on at the end, Brown would have been their MVP for the day.

One very good day helped his career outlook.

``In a ton of ways,'' Brown said. ``You get released from one job, you don't make the team with the Jets for certain reasons, then you're just reassuring people that OK, he can still play, he can still kick off. Thirty-three is not old for a kicker. I feel I've still got seven or eight years left in me.''

Brown was Seattle's seventh-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2003. He played five years with Seattle and four with St. Louis, making 220 field goals in 272 attempts (80.9 percent). When the Jets let him go, he learned what it's like to be a kicker trying to get back into the league.

His wife runs a business in Seattle, so he took care of their three children while kicking as much as he could.

``I went home and just stuck to the plan of kicking three days a week - Friday, Sunday, Tuesday - wherever I could find room,'' Brown said. ``High school fields, parks.''

He'd fly to San Diego and work out with other kickers, trying to stay sharp for when the call finally came. It was a big adjustment.

``I played nine straight years, so I never had to deal with it,'' Brown said. ``Now I do. The more games I get in this year, the more it's going to help me to try to get on a roster in February and keep moving forward.''

It's unclear how long he'll be in Cincinnati. Coach Marvin Lewis was noncommittal about whether Nugent would be healthy enough to kick during a game on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Brown knows that in any case, he won't be around for very long.

By making the most of his chance, he's hoping to get another one next season with some team.

``It's important to me, especially going into next year,'' he said. ``This really helps.''

NOTES: Nugent didn't participate in practice for the second straight day Tuesday. ... DE Michael Johnson (toe) and RB Cedric Peerman (ankle) also sat out for the second day in a row. .. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was held out of practice after going through a full workout on Monday. He missed Sunday's game against the Cowboys while recovering from a concussion. ... LB Rey Maualuga (shoulder, knee) and LB Vontaze Burfict (shoulder) were limited in practice.

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Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

There were already some decent expectations placed on Antonio Gandy-Golden for 2020 — and then Kelvin Harmon went down. Now, the Day 3 selection is being labeled as someone who needs to really contribute to the Washington Football Team.

But is that too much to ask for a rookie who went on Saturday in the draft? Recent numbers indicate that answer may be yes.

From 2015 to 2019, 25 wide receivers were chosen in the fourth round, which is where Washington nabbed Gandy-Golden a few months ago. Here are some takeaways from looking back on how all of those guys performed in their first professional seasons:

  • Only one target topped 50 catches and 600 yards, and coincidentally enough, it was Jamison Crowder. Crowder caught 59 passes for 604 yards and two scores as a rookie for the Burgundy and Gold in 2015. The only other guy who came close to either of those marks was Antonio Callaway, who had 43 grabs for 586 yards and five touchdowns for Cleveland in 2018. Those are easily the two best performances by a fourth-round rookie wideout since 2015, so keep that in mind when discussing Gandy-Golden.
  • Out of that group of 25, 15 suited up for double-digit games for their teams during their first taste of the league. The average stat line for those 15 rookies was 17 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown in about 14 contests. That's meager. 
  • Just nine out of the 25 recorded a touchdown catch as a rookie, and only four (Crowder, Callaway, DaeSean Hamilton and Malcom Mitchell) visited the end zone multiple times.

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So, judging solely off of that data, it would appear that Washington shouldn't be prepared to lean heavily Gandy-Golden. And once you combine that history with other factors, such as the huge transition he's about to make from Libery to the NFL and the very limited offseason he's had thus far, then the outlook for Gandy-Golden becomes even dimmer.

There is a super simple counter argument, however, at least when it comes to comparing him to his past fourth-round peers, and it has to do with his potential playing time.

While the 22-year-old has to fight through a pandemic, something none of the above rookies can relate to and something that could be detrimental to his early career, he also may be in line for a massive share of snaps right away. Most players who go off the board where Gandy-Golden did are usually worried about simply making the team; he, on the other hand, very well could be a starter across from Terry McLaurin in Week 1.

That alone means Gandy-Golden could end up having enough involvement in the offense to come up with a Crowder-like, impactful debut. In 2019, McLaurin far surpassed other third-round rookie receivers due largely to the amount of opportunity he got with Washington (his ridiculous talent was a bonus of course, too). Gandy-Golden is tracking on a similar path. 

A fairly general rule for any franchise is that it's not exactly prudent to need a Day 3 pass catcher to immediately act as one of your primary weapons. Stats from 2015 to 2019 seem to back up that general rule.

Every rule has an exception here or there, though. Maybe Gandy-Golden, with his outstanding physical traits and possibly featured role in 2020, will be that next exception and make all this math and comparing a totally moot issue. 

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Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Whether it actually matters is debatable, but what position Rui Hachimura best profiles for long-term has been a point of contention among fans and media members ever since he was drafted by the Wizards ninth overall last summer. He is what not long ago would be described as a 'tweener,' or somewhat of a cross between a small forward and a power forward.

Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal has put some thought into it and has now weighed in. He thinks Hachimura will be a small forward.

"Honestly, I think Rui is going to end up being a three. When his career is over with, he's going to end up playing the three," Beal explained during Sunday's Wizards-Nets broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

"I don't know what that's going to look like next year or what we're going to jump to, but you can see spurts of it. You can see he can handle the ball, he's comfortable with handling the ball. Obviously, we can improve that and make that better. He shoots the three comfortably."

That last point could probably be picked apart a bit and it does hold some importance in the argument. If Hachimura is indeed going to be a small forward, he will need to add some perimeter skills to his game.

Three-point shooting would be included in there and so far there certainly seems to be room for improvement. This season, he is shooting just 27 percent from three on 1.7 attempts per game. 

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In the three games the Wizards have played in Orlando, Hachimura is 0-for-1 from long range. He didn't attempt any threes at all in their first two games of the restart.

The reason why it is an interesting debate is Hachimura doesn't fit the traditional norms for either the three or four position. And that could be a good thing, as former teammate C.J. Miles pointed out in November. When you don't match up perfectly with opponents in any specific position, sometimes that means you are a mismatch for anyone who is guarding you.

Beal himself went on to rave about Hachimura's versatility.

"He's super athletic, so he can use his size to post up. So, the versatility is there. It's just a matter of what we want to mold him into," Beal said. "I think the sky's the limit. He has the ability, he has the work ethic, so I'm definitely excited to see."

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Hachimura not having a true position could be an advantage. What the Wizards will need to determine, however, is how to complement his skillset with other players as they continue to build their roster. 

Whether Hachimura is a three, a four or even a small-ball five, the best way to maximize his strengths will be to fill in the gaps around him. Putting a rim protector alongside him, for instance, would allow him to roam and switch on defense. Having teammates who space the floor will create openings in the midrange, where he is very effective scoring the ball.

Those involve more important questions than what position Hachimura will ultimately be defined by. But it's still a fun debate to have and now even Beal has been drawn into it.

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