If you want to turn a locker room around in a hurry, fill it with a bunch of guys who really need the jobs. Pack it with players who are just happy to have contracts, who don’t think certain work is too menial for them, who have a sense of sweaty desperation. That’s the secret to how the Washington Redskins have been playing. A team that a year ago was overpaid and too precious for its own good is now leading the league in hard-fought victories.
Run your eye down the Redskins’ roster, and notice how many players have recently won starting jobs by doing the dirty work of special teams, running down punts and kickoffs. Anthony Armstrong. Lorenzo Alexander. Chris Wilson. Consider the number of guys who have worked their way up from the practice squad to the active roster. Ryan Torain. Brandon Banks. Keiland Williams. Count the undrafted free agents who have become regular contributors on the field: Seven of them.
See what’s happening?
Each week, the shape of the team the Redskins are building becomes more apparent. Coach Mike Shanahan doesn’t give much away about his philosophy or his methods, but a couple of things are plain. One is his sharp eye for overlooked and undervalued players, whom he seems to prefer over coddled draft choices. Another is his penchant for using special teams to school those players. He’s clearly sifting and grooming a new generation of starters through the utility squads, so if you want to see the Redskins’ stars of the future, watch them closely.