- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss loves to bluff. Maybe he’ll outrun the defender deep, perhaps he’ll break inside. Exploiting that uncertainty leads to success.

“I pride myself in making that defender fear I’m going to run by him,” Moss said. “Making sure that when I catch that first pass, I scare him a little bit to make him think I have to give him a little room because he might do something with it.”

Moss might be the fastest starting Redskins receiver in franchise history. The same small clouds of smoke that used to trail cornerback Darrell Green now follow Moss.

Seeing a player cover 40 yards in 4.29 seconds is like watching the space shuttle roar past. Moss set a Big East indoor track mark for 60 meters at the University of Miami before eclipsing Michael Irvin’s school record with 2,546 yards receiving for his career. With fellow incoming receiver David Patten opposite Moss, the Redskins can go deep in a hurry.

“Whether I’m running deep, short or intermediate, I try to make sure the defenders think I’m going deep,” Moss said. “You can’t overemphasize ‘we gotta go deep, gotta go deep.’ Now you can’t see a [defender] 15 yards deep and go deep because they’re waiting on that. You have to carry on your plan, and when you see [a downfield opening], attack it.”

Said quarterback Patrick Ramsey: “Most receivers in the NFL are fast, but by NFL standards [Moss and Patten] can really burn. They can stretch it out and run away from people. They have so much speed that they can create a lot of separation.”

Four years after the Redskins nearly took Moss with the 15th selection before opting for Rod Gardner (the Jets snatched Moss with the very next pick), the former Hurricanes standout is finally in Washington. Maybe it was fate. After all, Moss also was Laveranues Coles’ backup with the New York Jets before being traded for his mentor on March 10.

“I remember getting ready for that draft,” he said. “Everything you heard was ‘Washington, Washington, Washington,’ then I ended up being drafted by New York. It kinda shocked me too.”

After two injury-plagued seasons, Moss emerged once Coles departed for Washington. He caught 74 passes for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2003 before New York’s diversified offense dropped his numbers to 45 receptions for 838 yards and five touchdowns last season. Moss blamed the decline on fewer chances.

“Last year I didn’t have the same attempts as I did a year ago,” he said. “I don’t worry about the numbers because I know there’s a lot behind the numbers that people don’t see.”

Surely the pressure will be on Moss to perform this season. The Redskins’ 30th-ranked offense needs a downfield threat, and Moss was deemed so important that the team reworked his contract following the trade to ensure his happiness. However, Moss doesn’t worry about expectations.

“I don’t like to talk about it before we do it,” he said. “It’s better to go out there and do it.”

Moss might even return punts occasionally. Antonio Brown is the expected returner, but coach Joe Gibbs said Moss might be used as an occasional game-breaker. Moss was the 2000 All-Big East special teams player of the year before averaging 12 yards a punt return over four seasons in New York.

“Going back in our past with Darrell Green,” Gibbs said, “if somebody can break a game open for you, it’s something you want to do.”

Said Moss: “I have no problem doing it. If it got me this far, why stop?”

Indeed, Moss isn’t stopping for anything. He’s even trying to outrun time.

“When you’re old and can’t do it anymore, then you’re going to miss [the speed],” said Moss, who is 26. “I like to take advantage of it now while I still have young legs. When you look at [downfield catches], you think, ‘Dang, did you see what I just did?’ You do it so much since you’re a child you put it in the back of your head you’re supposed to do that.”

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