Monday, August 23, 2010

Anthony Armstrong and the Redskins wide receiver situation

From the way Anthony Armstrong is being used, it is evident that he is not your usual young receiver who flashes a bit in preseason. In the first two preseason games, Joey Galloway and Santana Moss have been lining up as the starters. As soon as the Redskins go three wide, Armstrong takes over at flanker for Santana, who slides to the slot (this is a fantastic place for Santana to be by the way, and shows how Armstrong’s emergence can offer benefits beyond his own production).

And as soon as he is on the field, McNabb starts looking his way. He does have good speed, but more importantly than that he has shown the route running ability to set up defenders well before blowing past them. And the key is that those are starting defenders he is setting up. He has been productive in the first quarter of preseason games against starters, rather than the fourth quarter against guys who will be trying out for the UFL in a month. We can’t say for certain that this situation will continue into the regular season, but it’s hard to find a reason why it wouldn’t.  And for that matter, if Armstrong doesn't become an effective third receiver, who else on the current depth chart will?

But while it’s great that the flanker and slot positions appear to be well attended to, that leaves a gaping hole at split end. Galloway has been penciled in at the starting split end spot, with much attendent publicity. But despite reports that he has distinguished himself in practice, we can’t discount the fact that he has zero catches in the first two preseason games. In fact, I’m pretty certain he hasn’t even been targeted with a pass [Update: see comment section for a correction on this]. However, midway through the first quarter of the Ravens game that three receiver formation we have talked about showed up with Devin Thomas in Galloway’s place. Much has been made of Thomas’s fall down the depth chart under Mike Shanahan, but this is further evidence that this is one of Shanahan’s mind games. It is clear that Thomas is maddeningly inconsistent, but we saw last year that he has enormous physical talent. If he can get his game straight he has the potential to be a serious weapon – especially in conjunction with Moss and Armstrong. In my opinion the Redskins offense needs Thomas to take that split end job.

Even if he does depth is still a worry at receiver. After these three guys, the talent dropoff to the rest of the receivers (whichever ones may make the team) is considerable. And we know that in any given week either Moss or Thomas is likely to have a hamstring acting up. But the greater the number of games we can put these three on the field, the greater the chance Donovan McNabb might pull this offense into the top half of the league.

1 comment:

  1. Nitpicking here, but Galloway was targeted in the Bills game on a bomb down the right sideline. The pass landed five yards OB--one of McNabb's occasional pure misfires. But excellent analysis, otherwise; I could see decent productino out of a Moss/Armstrong/Thomas set.