Reporting David Elfin
His NFL resume includes most of two years on practice squads followed by 44 catches, 871 yards and three touchdowns as a 27-year-old virtual rookie last season.
And yet, if Santana Moss, the team’s leading wideout the last six years, doesn’t re-sign with the Redskins, Anthony Armstrong will have done more in a Washington uniform than the other four returning receivers – Malcolm Kelly, Roydell Williams, Terrence Austin and Brandon Banks – have produced between them.
Williams is a four-year veteran, but hardly played in 2010, his first season in Washington. Kelly, who spent last season on injured reserve, has played in six more NFL games than Armstrong but none of those were in the offense designed by coach Mike Shanahan and coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Austin and Banks were rookies last year.
“It’s weird going from practice squad nobody to telling everybody what to do and coach them up, but I don’t mind being that leader,” Armstrong said after one of the players-run practices in Northern Virginia as the NFL lockout rolled on last month. “I kinda embrace the role. I put pressure on my shoulders to be responsible for where the receivers are whenever we start camp. If there’s not that much that (receivers coach) Keenan (McCardell) has to do then I’ll feel like I did a pretty good job coaching ‘em up during the offseason.”
Armstrong did better than anyone could have expected last season, but the product of such outposts as West Texas A&M and the Intense Football League isn’t taking a repeat performance in 2011 for granted. Not by a long shot.
“I know that people are wondering if I could do it again, especially if Santana’s not there to draw coverage,” said Armstrong, whose 19.8 yards per catch ranked third in the NFL in 2010. “I’ve been working out hard. I’ve been in the weight room. I challenged myself this offseason to be stronger and faster. I’m just trying to get better in my routes by watching receivers like Derrick Mason, Greg Jennings and Santonio Holmes, guys who are at the top of their game, to see what they’re doing and try to put it in my game.”
It’s hard to imagine Dan Snyder’s ever-open wallet not luring a veteran replacement if Moss leaves and Armstrong wants his fellow 2010 starter to return because “it helps the team and we work well together.”
However, there is the possibility that Armstrong’s offseason role as the top dog could be true during the season as well.
“I don’t want to be the No. 1 guy by default,” Armstrong said. “I want to be the No. 1 guy because I earned it.”
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.