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Rivera: Gandy-Golden has size, athleticism to switch to TE

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The Washington Commanders' tight end position has been an intriguing one since Ron Rivera became the head coach. Many of the players who have come and gone have experience in other roles, mostly notably former quarterback Logan Thomas.

Antonio Gandy-Golden is the next player for the Commanders to make the switch, and he's bulked up to meet the physical demands of the role. The hope is that the former fourth-round pick will add another pass-catcher to the position.

"We know his skillset as a receiver," Rivera told the media after last Tuesday's practice. "It's the size that we really like, to be a guy that can run and play basically the U or the F position for us."

A move does make sense in some aspects for Gandy-Golden (6-foot-4, 223 pounds). He was drafted in 2020 with the hope of adding a big target who can stretch the field vertically for the Commanders' receiving corps, but a mix of injuries and a failure to make the roster in 2021 has resulted in just one catch for three yards.

Still, Gandy-Golden does have some dynamic traits that could be developed with time. He had an exceptional career at Liberty, and he finished the 2019 season with the fourth-most receiving yards in college football.

Gandy-Golden's size, skill set and athleticism make him an ideal fit for being a tight end.

"That's why I think basketball players or quarterbacks have been able to transition to it," Rivera said. "It's also positioned though that calls for a guy to know the game, understand the game and body position. You know, one of the best body position receivers I've ever been around is Greg Olsen, who knew how to keep his body between the defender and the ball."

The Commanders have a solid track record of finding tight ends with diverse backgrounds. Thomas, who is recovering from a knee injury, has become one of the better players at the position with a breakout season in 2020. Cole Turner, who started his college career as a wide receiver, was a consistent red zone target for Nevada.

From a pass-catching standpoint, Gandy-Golden should have little difficulty making the transition. After all, it should be easier to beat linebackers in coverage as opposed to cornerbacks and safeties.

Blocking, however, will be the deciding factor on whether Gandy-Golden can find a home at tight end.

"It is kind of hard right now because we're not in pads, but we wanna make sure he knows those assignments and where he is headed," Rivera said.

Gandy-Golden should be able to carry over many of the traits he used as a receiver to lock down cornerbacks, although he'll be dealing with a more aggressive style with defensive linemen and linebackers. That's where his size comes in, and the muscle mass he's added should help him handle the physical demands of the position.

The Commanders have an abundance of tight ends, even with Thomas going through his recovery. In addition to him and Turner, there's also John Bates and Sammis Reyes, both of whom have traits that excite the coaching staff.

So, there are some hurdles in Gandy-Golden's path as he tries to make the roster. But with four months between now and when the 53-man roster is decided, there's still plenty of time for him to make his case.

"If you have some size and some athletic ability and you are a guy that has ball skills, I think you can transition very well to that position," Rivera said.

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