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Youth Serves Season-Opening Victory for Redskins

Gary "Digital" Williams | 9/7/2011, 1:35 p.m.
Redskins wide receiver Anthony Armstrong catches a pass on the one-yard line to set up a Washington touchdown in the 2nd quarter./Photo by Jjohn E De Freitas.

Coming into the 2011 regular season, the 53-man roster for the Washington Redskins is almost two years younger than last year. That youth paid dividends in the season opener as rookies and young vets made key plays leading to a 28-14 victory over the New York Giants in front of 80,121 at FedEx Field.

Linebacker and first-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan picked off a pass and scampered nine yards for the eventual game-winning score and nose tackle and seventh-round selection Chris Neild sacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning twice in his pro debut.

Kerrigan's play was the first time a rookie has returned an interception for a touchdown since Champ Bailey performed the feat in October of 1999. The top draft pick from Perdue University said the coaches set the tone for the team in the locker room at halftime with the game tied at 14.

Photos by John E De Freitas {gallery}/skins-11-09-11{/gallery}"The coaches said we needed to come out with more of a swagger and have fun while we're playing," Kerrigan said. "The interception really was a result of me being in position with my hands up."

"I never scored a touchdown in college, so it was great to get one in my first pro game," Kerrigan added.

Neild's two sacks was another highlight from a defense that shut the Giants offense down in the second half, allowing no points. The Redskins sacked Manning four times during the game.

"Our defense was the key tonight," said Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, who was 21-34 for 305 yards and two touchdowns. The effort was Grossman's fourth career 300-yard game.

Another of the young players that stepped up for the Redskins was tight end Fred Davis who had his first 100-plus yard game in his career. Davis caught five passes for 105 yards.

Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan said he was proud of his team's effort.

"I liked the effort on both sides of the ball," Shanahan said. "We made some key plays on both sides of the ball. We played a full 60 minutes today."

The Redskins return home this Sunday to play the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals won their opener defeating the Carolina Panthers 28-21 despite giving up an NFL rookie record 422 passing yards to Panthers quarterback and overall 2011 number-one NFL draft pick Cam Newton. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb made his first regular season start after coming over from the Philadelphia Eagles and threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns.