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
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
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
– 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
”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
”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
– 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
– 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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