For Redskins, improvement down the roster continues long after changes at the top
Monday, October 11, 2010; 12:07 AM
When an NFL team gets better, moving from one level of the league up to another, the change certainly starts at the top with a new coach like Mike Shanahan, or a better quarterback like Donovan McNabb or, in the case of the Redskins, with an owner who decides to step back and let others have more control.
However, the improvement must spread much further through the team than that. Shanahan's Super Bowl rings and McNabb's accolades in Philadelphia are a catalyst. But new young players must arrive to contribute. And players who were part of the previous losing culture must be redeployed to better advantage, transformed from being part of the problem to keys to a solution.
In Sunday's 16-13 overtime win over Green Bay, the Redskins saw perfect examples of both types of players - wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, the rookie who brings speed, excitement and smiling underdog swagger and safety LaRon Landry, the former high-draft-pick disappointment of '09 who suddenly has begun to fulfill his enormous promise in a new system.
The acrobatic Armstrong caught a 48-yard scoring bomb from McNabb, a heave that traveled 55 yards in the air, that inflamed the crowd of 87,760, shifted the momentum of the game and cut the Redskins' deficit to 13-10 in the fourth quarter.
"Anthony really got things going for us," said a grateful McNabb. "He beat the safety deep. I put it out there high and far for him. And what a catch."
"When I jumped, I was floating," said Armstrong, grinning. "I was WAY up over that safety. He was down at my knees, man.
"You've got to have some swagger."
If Armstrong's catch was an emotional turning point, it was Landry, who was beaten often on deep passes last year in the system of ex-coordinator Greg Blache, who inspired the defense all day with his violence and nose for the ball.
You'd think that causing a fumble and making 13 tackles might be enough for one day's work. But it was Landry's rolling reach-behind-himself interception in overtime - he picking off an Aaron Rodgers pass inches off the ground - that gave the Redskins the ball at the Green Bay 39-yard line in overtime.
"Landry amazes me, to be honest," Shanahan said. "He's fast, a hitter. He loves to play and he's that way every snap."
After Landry's pick, two short McNabb passes and a crucial interference penalty drawn by Armstrong on legendary cornerback Charles Woodson, set up the game-winning 33-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
After Landry's interception, one Packer tried to strip the ball away from him. "Landry's got the biggest arms you've ever seen on a guy his size. You're going to try to strip the ball from him?" said linebacker Chris Wilson. "LaRon could have curled that guy."