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Anthony Armstrong shares ‘the knowledge’ with Cleveland Browns’ receivers

Posted Jun 4, 2014

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says Anthony Armstrong’s experience with Kyle Shanahan’s offense helps the Browns’ other receivers.

Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan

For now, questions far exceed answers at the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver position.

What will happen with Josh Gordon? When will Miles Austin and Nate Burleson be fully able to practice and how well will they hold up physically? What will the depth chart look like when the season begins?

Additionally, there’s a fairly steep learning curve for most of the receivers and the rest of the offense when it comes to the scheme introduced by new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

But that’s where you’ll find some answers, courtesy of one of the veterans of the group, 31-year-old Anthony Armstrong. He spent two seasons with the Washington Redskins while Shanahan was their offensive coordinator, which is two years more than any of the Browns’ other receivers, so there’s plenty that he knows about his system and all of its nuances.

Armstrong is not what you would consider a lock to make the roster. He was out of football last season – and considering options that would take him away from the game permanently – after spending the 2012 campaign with brief stops in Miami, Jacksonville, and Dallas. He played for a couple of arena-football teams before finally getting his shot in the NFL in 2008. He is unquestionably on the fringe.

And now, through the rest of offseason workouts and training camp, Armstrong faces what could very well represent his final chance to make an NFL roster.

He is competing for his survival, yet that isn’t preventing him from being a consummate professional and sharing what he knows about the Shanahan offense with his fellow receivers, who are still in the early stages of learning it.

“I try to share all the knowledge I can, and guys are not afraid to come and ask me questions,” Armstrong said. “I know that, if I can get them to do the right thing, it’s going to help them get open and ultimately it can help me get open if I have a complementary route. If they break too early, I’ll say, ‘Hey, make sure you get your depth (right), because you’re helping this other guy get open and (the entire offense succeed).

“Just sharing the information is something I don’t have a problem doing. If you’re going to outplay me, you’re going to outplay me. But I’m going to at least give you some of the tools so that you can be successful.”

It is easy to tell that Armstrong understands the Browns’ offense better than any of his teammates.

He consistently runs the proper routes. He consistently makes the proper adjustments. He consistently gets open against a defense that has, for most of the offseason, allowed very little in the way of separation for receivers.

Armstrong also catches the ball well and has remarkable speed left in those 31-year-old legs.

But his greatest asset is that he knows both what he’s supposed to do as a receiver and the overall concept of the scheme and the man pushing its buttons.

“Kyle does like to throw the ball,” Armstrong said. “But he also knows that you have to set (the pass) up with that run. You can probably expect some big seasons from (running backs) Ben Tate and Terrance West, and whoever gets back there. But you also know there are going to be some big plays thrown down the field.

“When you get the running game going, that’s when you get the big plays from play-action. Kyle (emphasizes) speed and getting down the field, selling the same route stems, things like that, to make the safeties bite up, and then you’re wide open going over the top. Being able to run fast and taking advantage of the safeties is one thing, but then, when they play deep, you have the option to sometimes sit down and catch a 20-yard pass as well.

“It’s kind of a pick-your-poison.”

In some ways, that is Anthony Armstrong’s existence. If he’s too good at helping out the competition, it might very cost him his last best opportunity to get back on an NFL team. But if he takes anything less than a professional approach to his job, he won’t be staying true to himself.

Ultimately, that, along with the many questions surrounding the Browns’ receiver position, is why Armstrong is getting another shot at the NFL.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com. We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.

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