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Depth Creating Competition Amongst Established Redskins Receivers

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – Terrence Austin doesn’t keep track of the catches he made during training camp. He doesn’t hurry back to take notes after practice when and where he made a catch, and he doesn’t record his completions as he’s watching film.

Austin

The Washington Redskins’ receiver does keep track of one number, though: his drops. Thus far, through eight days of practice, that number stands at zero.

“Every day I’m trying to be mistake-free, and that’s my thing,” Austin said Friday. “The less mistakes I have, I feel like the better opportunity I have. That’s all.”

As a receiver entering his third season, Austin, who turns 24 next month, shouldn’t theoretically have a difficult time securing a role with the Redskins. Displeased with the production from the receivers a year ago, though, the team made several moves to increase the unit’s depth.

Pierre Garçon signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract to join the team from Indianapolis, while Joshua Morgan signed what is essentially a two-year deal for $12 million to leave San Francisco.

Their presence, plus the return of Leonard Hankerson, a rookie last year, from injury and the re-dedication by Santana Moss during the offseason has left the Redskins with a clear top four receivers and uncertainty for everybody else.

Austin, Anthony Armstrong, Aldrick Robinson and Brandon Banks were all on the team last season, but could face the possibility their time is up when rosters are finalized Aug. 31.

It’s a decision the coaching staff hasn’t even broached, but it’s one that will take plenty of time to reach.

“You want to keep the best 53 guys – and 61 guys with the practice squad – so each year, it kind of changes,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “Sometimes it may be a little bit higher at one position than the other, based on who you think who the top 53 are and based on your practice squad of eight people as well.”

Shanahan has said he doesn’t foresee keeping eight receivers on the active roster, which the Redskins did last season. Banks, the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner, will have to make the team as a receiver; more likely, six or seven will make the cut.

Armstrong injured the AC joint in his shoulder Thursday and is day-to-day, limiting his practice time. Set to begin his fifth year in the NFL and third with the Redskins, Armstrong was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2010 but caught just seven passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns in 2011.

That, he said, should help serve as insurance from what he can’t do in the coming days.

“I don’t think like that, because I know my willpower and the training staff will take care of it and get you back to 100 percent as soon as possible,” Armstrong said.

Banks caught one pass last year and only played on offense for the final four games. Robinson, on the practice squad for all but the final week, never got on the field – a fact he attributes to the lockout hampering his understanding of the playbook.

“It definitely killed me not knowing what I’m doing out on the football field,” said Robinson, chosen in the sixth round out of SMU. “I want to be on the 53 this year. That’s what my goal is, and anything to help this team win – whether that’s returning kicks, running down on kicks, blocking on kicks, catching balls, coming in [for] special situations – anything I can do.”

The Redskins also have Dezmon Briscoe, who was Tampa Bay’s leading receiver a year ago and was claimed off waivers last week, and three other undrafted rookies on the roster. Any of them trying to earn a spot on the roster for the opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9 will have to adhere to Austin’s mistake-free philosophy.

“My whole thing is if I’m out here to perform, everything should take care of itself,” Austin said. “I feel like Coach Shanahan is a coach that believes in good players, and if you can play, you’re going to be on the team. If you can’t play, it’s not for you. The way I look at it is I grind hard every day, and if I’m not here, I’ll be somewhere else.”

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