Shanahan not willing to play young players for the sake of evaluation

Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan said he will continue to play the best players. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said last week that he wouldn’t go young just to start evaluating prospects that could contribute in the future because at the time, the Redskins still had a slim chance to turn their season around. The loss to the Giants mathematically eliminated Washington from playoff contention. But Shanahan said that his approach will not change.

“No difference,” the coach said Monday afternoon. “Obviously, you’re disappointed because your goal is to get to the playoffs and we all know if you get to the playoffs, you have the opportunity to win and get to the Super Bowl. But if you are eliminated, you still want to go out and play some good football. You still want to win games. Everyone is very competitive, very motivated and when people aren’t motivated, even when you’re out of it, usually they don’t last.”

The Redskins face uncertainty along their offensive line, at wide receiver and nearly across the board on defense where 11 players — seven of them starters — have expiring contracts.

Thus far, 2012 draft picks Tom Compton, Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus (all offensive linemen) and rookies Bacari Rambo (a safety) and Brandon Jenkins (a linebacker) have seen little to no action.

The three linemen play positions where veterans have had uneven play this season. Compton lines up in some jumbo packages, and Gettis plays on some special teams units, but LeRibeus hasn’t dressed for a single game. Rambo as of late has worked his way back onto the field in a limited capacity, but Jenkins has played in only four games.

First-year wide receivers Nick Williams, Lance Lewis and Josh Bellamy and defensive backs Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson also rank among the group of young players eager for the chance to prove themselves if given the chance.

But Shanahan maintained that he and his assistants have been conducting evaluations in practices throughout the season, and that they play the best players. Although the coach believes that the team possesses talent among its young ranks, he will not play them just to play them, because he believes the decision to go young for evaluation purposes can do more harm than good.

“There’s a number of guys that are very close. But like I said at the beginning, they’re close, but are they there yet?” Shanahan said. “If you’re going to put a guy in that’s close and you’re not playing the best player, then what you’re telling your football team is you are evaluating these young guys, and you really don’t care about the games, and what you do care about is the future. If you want to lose a football team, that’s the first thing you do.

“Now, if that person warrants a chance to play because they’re very, very close in competition, then that’s a different story,” Shanahan added.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Jones’s mailbag mid-day on Tuesday.

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