Reporting Grant Paulsen
Anthony Armstrong’s 2011 season has been as trying as his 2010 campaign was prolific.
The second-year wide receiver missed two games with a hamstring injury he has since recovered from, but upon returning to the Redskins’ active roster Armstrong has seen decreased playing time and minimal targets. The speedy pass-catcher has made just one start all season, and he’s caught just one pass for nine yards since week-two.
Armstrong had a pair of catches in each o the Redskins’ first two games, scoring a touchdown in the team’s week-one win over the Giants. But his five catches for 47 yards through ten weeks are a mammoth disappointment coming off of a breakthrough 2010 season that saw the journeyman earn a starting spot.
A year ago, Armstrong started Washington’s last 11 games en route to a 44-catch, 871-yard season. Armstrong’s 871 receiving yards were the most by a Redskins’ No. 2 wide receiver since Albert Connell’s outstanding 1999 effort behind Michael Westbrook on Washington’s depth chart.
Armstrong finished 2010 average 19.8 yards-per-catch, the NFL’s third-highest total behind only Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson. A year later, the former Arena League star is struggling just to get playing time, let alone to get back to a point where he’s catching long-balls.
“I want to see him make some plays,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s had some opportunities out there. He should have more this week with [Leonard] Hankerson going down.”
Hankerson had supplanted Armstrong as the Redskins’ top option at the X-receiver position. A rookie from the University of Miami, Hankerson caught eight passes for 106 yards in Miami last Sunday before suffering a season-ending hip injury. The 100-yard performance was Washington’s first by a wide receiver all season.
A week ago Monday — a day after Armstrong’s fifth catchless game in his last six outings — Mike Shanahan admitted that the 28-year-old receiver was struggling to beat press coverage. Still though, the younger Shanahan says the Redskins’ coaching staff has full confidence that Armstrong can turn his season around.
“Anthony’s one of our hardest workers,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He does everything right. He works at it. He’s just one of the couple of other guys working better in practice. Anthony’s been there. We know what he can do. With those guys going down, I think he will get some more opportunities.”
But it could be stated that Armstrong’s lack of productivity has as much to do with a lack of opportunities as it is anything that he is doing as a player. He hasn’t been on the field as much, and he hasn’t been targeted on nearly as many deep passes as he was last season.
As a team, the Redskins seem to have lost the ability to get the ball down-field. Through nine games, Washington has managed just 10 completions of 25 or more yards. Comparatively, the Redskins’ upcoming opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, has completed 26 passes of 25-plus yards.
If the Redskins’ passing game is going to start making bigger plays, and the team’s aerial assault is going to be less horizontal and more vertical, than Armstrong is going to have to be involved.
According to the team’s offensive coordinator, that could start happening on Sunday.