Redskins player to watch in 2011: WR Anthony Armstrong.

I’m a complete sucker for those stories of when a player decides he needs to take his game to the next level, undergoes some crazy training/workout + diet program, and comes into the next training camp in amazing shape. A good portion of that time, stories like those are accurate precursors for guys about to enjoy a big break-out or bounceback season (especially for those of us interested in terms of fantasy football purposes).

That’s why it warms my heart to heart the recent quotes made by Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong, who feels like he has to go out prove himself to the coaching staff all over again, even after a relatively successful 2010 season.

Just a few seasons after bouncing around between the Intense Football League, the Area Football League, and practice squads for a couple of NFL teams, Armstrong was set to enter the 2011 season as the #1 receiver for the Washington Redskins. Santana Moss, last year’s top receiver, is currently a free agent, and the team’s front office has insinuated that they’re not necessarily going to jump through hoops to re-sign him. Right now, I’d give it 3 to 2 odds that Moss is back as a Redskin next year, but that’s still a bit too close to “50/50” to really count on that.

Then, of course, the Redskins went ahead and drafted three wide receivers in this past NFL draft: Leonard Hankerson of Miami, Niles Paul of Nebraska, and Aldrick Robsinson of Southern Methodist. That basically put Armstrong – along with the remaining incumbents like Terrance Austin, Brandon Banks, and Malcolm Kelly – on notice: don’t get too comfortable.

That’s why I love the following quote from Armstrong:

“I knew they were going to take one,” he said [referring to the Redskins potentially drafting a wide receiver]. “Then we end up taking two and then three.

“It’s one of those things where they feel like they have to address the need and that’s fine. I take it as a challenge and I take it as motivation. You can take it as a sign of disrespect, however you want to take it. I use it as fuel, put it in my tank to make me work out harder in the morning, work out harder on the field.”

[Courtesy of CSNWashington.com]

From a professional athlete – and especially after seeing of the entitled, overpaid fat-cats that have inhabited the Redskins roster – you love to hear that. Don’t feel like you’re entitled to anything; go out, bust your ass, and earn those accolades. If someone challenges your manhood, prove them wrong. If you have any sense of pride in who you are and what you do, go out and EARN your paycheck.

(Are you listening, Albert Haynesworth?)

Maybe i’m drinking a bit too much of the Burgundy and Gold kool-aid, but i’ve admittedly eaten my crow a bit about Armstrong, who I didn’t think was anything more than a nice slot-receiver, at best. In his first season as a starter, Armstrong had had over 870 yards receiving last year (good enough to put him in the top 30 in that stat category), and his 19.8 yards per reception ranked third in the NFL.

It’s kind of hard to really say how much he’ll get better because he’s already 28 years old, but in a “dream” scenario, his upside ceiling is something between a guy like Mike Wallace of the Steelers and Steve Smith of the Panthers in (in his heyday).

Admittedly, this cursed NFL lockout is going to stunt the development of a lot of young players, like Armstrong, who need to keep getting as many snaps as possible to continue their development.

Still, Armstrong proven that he at least has the physical ability to be a playmaker in this league. The old saying is that 90% of the NFL game is mental anyway, so there’s reason to believe that with a little more practice, Armstrong could develop into a very solid contributor.


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