WR Armstrong needs to step up for Redskins

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(Eds: Stands as 1st Ld-Writethru on state lines to add details, quotes and byline. With AP Photos.)By JOSEPH WHITEAP Sports Writer

When Rex Grossman was benched, it gave Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck a chance.

When Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger were injured, it gave Sean Locklear and Erik Cook starting spots along the offensive line.

When Santana Moss was hurt, it meant more opportunities for Anthony Armstrong and the rest of the receiving corps.

When a team fails to score a single point, it means no one is taking advantage.

''It's pretty frustrating,'' Armstrong said Thursday, ''just for the fact that I haven't been able to make an impact like I want to.''

Injuries and ineffectiveness led to last week's 23-0 embarrassment against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto, and Armstrong's day was as bad as anyone's. He had four passes thrown his way and didn't catch any. He and the other wideouts who played - Jabar Gaffney, Terrence Austin, Leonard Hankerson, Donte' Stallworth and Niles Paul - combined for a total of seven receptions for 85 yards.

Armstrong had a breakout 2010, part of a feel-good year for a 27-year-old rookie from West Texas A&M who worked his way through both the Intense Football League and the Arena Football League before finally landing on an NFL roster. The speedster caught 44 passes for 871 yards - an eye-opening 19.8 per catch - and figured to do even more this year.

Instead, he missed two games with a hamstring injury and has since been part of the offense's overall slump. He has only five catches for 47 yards for the season. That's about what he'd expect to have in one game.

Armstrong didn't look like his old explosive self against the Bills when the Redskins tried to throw deep. He said he has no issues with his hamstring other than it takes ''a little bit longer to get warmed up.''

Coach Mike Shanahan isn't so sure.

''Anytime you're banged up, and you have a pulled hamstring and all of a sudden your speed's not there,'' Shanahan said, ''and you've got to get back into football shape, and they're much more aware of his speed and doing a little bit more bump coverage - it's a combination of those things.''

Of course, the entire offense just isn't the same without Moss, who is out at least another month with a broken left hand. The Redskins need to find creative ways to get going without their best receiver.

''It takes a definite threat off the field,'' Armstrong said. ''When teams have to account for Santana, usually he's going to attract some extra attention, and that will help free up a couple of other guys. Now teams don't necessarily have to do that, and it puts a lot of pressure on everybody else, myself included, to get open, to create plays, to try to fill his shoes.''

The only reliable offensive threat has been tight end Fred Davis, who has been limited in practice this week with a sprained left ankle ahead of Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if Davis plays, the Redskins need Armstrong to at least present the appearance of a downfield threat while facing a team that has the NFL's top run defense.

''It's tough to make long drives down the field, five yards at a time,'' offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. ''You've got to get some big plays in there to get points.''

While Armstrong has been hard on himself, the fans have been hard on the younger Shanahan this week, questioning his play-calling on talk radio and in social media. He wouldn't expect anything different.

''Any time you get shut out, I expect to get criticized,'' Kyle Shanahan said. ''I expect it from you guys. I expect it from my wife. I expect it from myself. It's embarrassing. I've never been shut out before, and I don't ever want it to happen again. But it is what it is. You've got to man up and deal with it. But really what matters to me is whether the players believe in me or not. That's what it really all comes down to. If the players believe in you and have confidence in what you're doing, then you've got a chance.''

So what did his wife say?

''She was pretty short,'' Kyle Shanahan said with a smile. ''She said run the ball more.''

Notes: LT Williams, who has missed two games, remains limited in practice. His return could lead to another shuffle at left guard and center. ... S Oshiomogho Atogwe (toe/ knee) did not practice. ... Shanahan altered his explanation for the blocked field goal against the Bills. The coach originally said Graham Gano's kick was too low, but on Thursday he also cited personnel changes that led to Buffalo getting penetration. ''Combination of both those things,'' Shanahan said.


Joseph White can be reached at

Tagged: Bills, Redskins, Santana Moss, Anthony Armstrong

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