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Redskins’ Armstrong losing playing time to rookie Hankerson

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Washington Redskins' search for answers on offense continued out back at Redskins Park on Wednesday afternoon. The scene after practice illustrated the divergent paths of two players at the same position — one whose potential coaches are determined to explore; the other working to regain their faith.

Consecutive dreadful performances have cost some players playing time and created opportunities for others. Receiver Anthony Armstrong is among the former. His starting role two games ago against Buffalo became a meager eight snaps last Sunday against San Francisco.

So there he was face-to-face with receivers coach Keenan McCardell on the practice field Wednesday after almost all of his teammates had disappeared into the locker room. Coach Mike Shanahan on Monday explained Armstrong is having difficulty beating bump coverage, so Armstrong worked overtime to fix the problem.

"I don't think I'm in no dadgum dog house," Armstrong said. "Why would I be in the dog house? I just think a lot of guys are getting opportunities. Of course, I've got to keep working."

Meanwhile, rookie receiver Leonard Hankerson conducted a TV interview just outside the building. Stations want his face on their broadcasts because he replaced Armstrong in the starting lineup. His stock is rising. Shanahan's search for answers has led to him.

"It just shows that I'm doing the little things it takes to get better, listen to the coaches and just going out there and proving it," Hankerson said.

Games are a fleeting measure of Washington's progress, but the process itself is constantly ongoing. Armstrong and Hankerson are proof.

"You're judging this everyday," Shanahan said. "You've got to put the right group together, and you don't know. It's a little bit of a crapshoot."

So for now, Armstrong has to work for another chance. It's quite a fall from the perch he enjoyed at the end of last season.

He finished his first full year averaging 19.8 yards on 44 catches. It was the third-best average of any NFL receiver with more than 16 receptions. With a year of experience to build upon, there was reason to believe he could be a building block for the offense.

He started the year as the third receiver behind Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, and then he strained his hamstring in Week 3. He missed 2 1/2 games and hasn't been the same. Halfway through the season, he has only five catches for 47 yards and one touchdown.

"We've got competition, and Anthony hasn't been as consistent as I would like getting off bump coverage," Shanahan said Monday. "If you can't beat bump coverage in the National Football League, then you start coaching."

Ouch. Armstrong didn't like that one.

"No time soon am I planning on taking a coaching position," Armstrong said. "I spoke with him about it. Initially I took it as a swipe, but then I also took it as a challenge. I've been a round him for a year and a half now. He makes jokes, and that's his general comment to any receiver, really. I just happened to be the one in the crosshairs at the time."

Shanahan backed off a bit Wednesday, saying he told Armstrong "I was kind of teasing, but at the same time kind of serious because that's the nature of this business."

"I'm looking for him to have a heck of a career here," Shanahan continued. "I'm happy with the guy and the way he goes about his business."

For Armstrong, that means responding to the head coach's message by working after practice.

He knows anyone capable of making plays can secure a place on the Redskins' languishing offense, and he's determined to prove he still is.

"I'm already frustrated from the playing time, the lack of production the lack of wins and not being able to help the team, but I'm not any more motivated than before," he said. "Just now everybody knows about it."

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