Varied Redskins cast aim to catch RGIII’s passes

Anthony Armstrong didn’t stand out for a change when the

Washington Redskins receivers lined up for drills Tuesday at

practice.

That is a good thing, if he is going to make the team.

Armstrong was again No. 13 – and not the lone wideout in the

yellow non-contact jersey, a piece of apparel he had been forced to

wear since hurting his right shoulder on Aug. 2. Armstrong had fun

decorating the jersey for various practices – one day he sported a

tic-tac-toe grid – but it was no fun losing ground in one of the

most competitive battles of Washington’s preseason.

”There’s a lot of ground to make up, in making plays,”

Armstrong said. ”I know that I’m capable of doing that. Our

offense is running great right now. I’ve got to be able to fit

in.”

The audition to become one of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin

III’s regular season targets has turned into quite a show,

featuring a diverse cast of characters trying to stand out on coach

Mike Shanahan’s stage. A decent case can be made for as many as

nine of the receivers vying to make the 53-man roster when the

final cuts are made next week, with some jobs more secure than

others.

– The new No. 1 is Pierre Garcon, whom the Redskins (No. 25 in

the AP Pro32) welcomed with a five-year, $42.5-million contract

during free agency. He has developed a quick rapport with Griffin

that was evident throughout training camp and in the first two

preseason games.

”We’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s started off on the

right foot,” Garcon said.

– Moving to the slot is Santana Moss, whose six-year run as

Washington’s top yardage receiver ended last year. Rather than

concede he is starting to fade at age 33, he dropped 15 pounds and

seems revitalized, figuring to benefit from Griffin’s mobility.

”Now we’re not going to have these safeties playing so deep

because they know that at the end of the day he can pull that ball

down and run,” Moss said. ”Now they’ve got to play honest, and

that should open up a lot of lanes for us.”

– Joshua Morgan signed on the same day as Garcon, getting a

contract worth $12 million over the first two years, but he has

been forced to play catch-up after straining his left hamstring

during training camp. He was also limited during offseason workouts

while recovering from a broken right ankle, but he figures to be

more in the mix Saturday when the D.C. native makes his home

preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts.

”I don’t want to rush back out here, not be healthy and go out

there and put some garbage on the film,” Morgan said. ”I want to

go out there and be healthy and put on film what I can really do.

They know what they paid for.”

– Armstrong had a breakout year with 871 yards receiving in

2010, but he caught only seven passes last year and realizes his

position has become tenuous. He kept his sense of humor while

wearing the non-contact jersey, saying he was getting good practice

at being ”extra-elusive,” but Saturday’s game could be huge for

him.

”Unfortunately, you’re coming off of a bad season, so usually

it’s `What have you done for me lately?”’ he said. ”Hopefully

there was enough good back in 2010 that weighs heavily on their

mind.”

– Brandon Banks is trying to prove he is more than just a

big-play return man in a tiny package. He ran back a punt 91 yards

for a touchdown Saturday against the Chicago Bears, but Shanahan

has made it clear that Banks needs to contribute as a receiver as

well. The 5-foot-7 Banks has caught only two of the nine passes

thrown his way in preseason.

”When a guy has game-breaking potential and ability, which he

has shown, it is tough not to keep a guy like that,” Shanahan

said. ”But we have a lot of competition and that is what you want

to have. Who else can return punts? Who else can play wide

receiver? That is what you have to evaluate, and sometimes you let

some good football players go.”

– Looking safer is second-year wideout Leonard Hankerson, who

looked ready to blossom last year when he had a 106-yard game

against the Miami Dolphins. He also hurt his right hip in that game

and was done for the season, but he is fully recovered and has too

much potential to ignore.

– There is also Dezmon Briscoe, trying to get back on his feet

after conditioning and off-field troubles got him cut by the Tampa

Bay Buccaneers last month. Briscoe had three catches and a

touchdown Saturday.

– Then there is Aldrick Robinson, who can return kicks and has

had a good preseason (eight catches, 132 yards) after spending most

of last year on the practice squad. Third-year wideout Terrence

Austin, another bubble player who helped himself by throwing a key

block on Banks’ punt return against the Bears, is a reminder that

versatility can help in determining that final roster spot.

The pool is so deep that Shanahan moved promising youngster

Niles Paul to tight end. Certainly, the coach this year will be

cutting receivers who would have made in the team in the past, a

sign that the rebuilding project is working.

”I just want to be as valuable as possible,” Austin said.

”You’re going to have a lot of guys here that can do a number of

things, and you’ve got to weed out who can help you the most.”

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