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McNabb’s targets limited in Washington
ASHBURN, Va. | Anthony Armstrong's 57-yard catch in the Washington Redskins' win over the Philadelphia Eagles was one of those multilayered NFL moments worthy of a mental replay or two.
First, it was the biggest play to date for the 27-year-old first-year player who made the Redskins roster after toiling in the Intense Football League and Arena Football League before getting his legitimate shot at the NFL.
Secondly, Armstrong should have scored. His legs went all wobbly after he made the catch, and he was forced out of bounds at the 16-yard line. The Redskins couldn't punch it in and settled for a field goal.
Thirdly, Armstrong celebrated the catch by pantomiming an archer shooting a bow and arrow. That's a lesson the newbie needs to learn: Antics like that don't look good when the play falls short of the end zone.
But perhaps the most curious thing about the play? A receiver other than Santana Moss was catching a pass from Donovan McNabb.
Through four games, the stats for the Redskins wideouts are about as top-heavy as can be. Moss has 22 catches, and no other receiver has more than four. Armstrong (four), Joey Galloway (four), Roydell Williams (two) and Brandon Banks (one) have 11 receptions combined — exactly half of Moss' total.
It's not the way McNabb likes to operate.
"Spreading the ball around, I take pride in that," McNabb said. "Again, this is a different type of offense than I've run for 11 years. I have to kind of get into a level where I know that you can throw it here. These guys are running different routes and will cause different plays, and Santana has just had more opportunities. We all know that he's been one of the best receivers here the last couple of years, so there's a reason he's getting more opportunities."
The Redskins have been looking for the ideal No. 2 wideout to complement Moss for years, with little success. David Patten, James Thrash, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El couldn't fit the bill, even though some had hefty contracts. A pair of second-round draft picks were invested in Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly in 2008; Thomas can't get on the field, and Kelly is on injured reserve.
The competition was so watered down this year that 38-year-old Galloway earned a starting role, but he's been virtually invisible other than a 62-yard reception in the Week 2 loss to the Houston Texans.
So it's the usual tandem of Moss and tight end Chris Cooley doing all the heavy lifting — or catching — in the passing game. Cooley has 16 receptions, and fullback Mike Sellers is next on the team with eight. Keiland Williams has six, but he was waived last week and is currently on the practice squad.
Only the Minnesota Vikings have thrown fewer touchdown passes than the Redskins this season. McNabb has two to Cooley and one to Moss, a pattern all to familiar to Moss.
"I notice when it comes to somebody outside of me making plays, Chris has been one of the those guys — I've been chasing him more years than he's been chasing me," Moss said. "Now that I'm thinking about it, he's always in my eyesight because I'm like 'How many touchdowns you've got?' He'll be 'I've got eight.' I'm like, 'Man, I got nine.'"
But the Redskins need more than Moss-Cooley to thrive. This was supposed to be the year, for example, when the lack of a productive No. 2 receiver wouldn't matter as much because the emergence of Fred Davis would give the offense a two-headed tight-end monster that would drive defenses crazy.
Davis, though, has only three catches — and he seems resigned to second-fiddle fate.
"I kind of figured it would be like that," Davis said. "Two tight end sets, you have guys out there, but usually it's one guy that gets most of those balls. Other guys might do blocking, might get a few passes, so I'm fine with whatever the role is."
Receivers and coaches agree that the disparity in catches is fine as long as the team wins. Besides, it's hard to do much complaining on a team that is 2-2 and still learning its way after going 4-12 last year.
"We're just kind of getting used to each other right now," coach Mike Shanahan said. "Santana is an excellent receiver, and Chris is an excellent tight end, and hopefully we can get some others involved and be a little more effective than we have been."
NOTES: LT Trent Williams (knee, toe) was still limited in practice Thursday, but Shanahan said he's "making strides" and could be ready to return to the lineup Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. "Hopefully he keeps on improving each day, and if he keeps on improving like he has over the last two days, I think he'll be able to go," Shanahan said. "But we'll have to check him out tomorrow."
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