- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

The paths of wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss again will intersect Sunday when the Washington Redskins play the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

Coles will welcome the team he played for from 2003 to 2004, while Moss will return to the place he called home from 2001 to 2004.

“I’m quite sure he wants to do really well against the Redskins,” Washington cornerback Shawn Springs said of Coles, who pouted his way back to New York in March 2005.

Moss, the speedster from Miami, arrived in New York in 2001, a year after wily Jacksonville native Coles joined the Jets. In two seasons as teammates, they started together just once. Moss was the No. 3 receiver as Coles caught 89 passes to help lead the 2002 Jets to the AFC Championship game.

A year later when the Jets opened the season at Washington, Coles was with the Redskins, having signed as a restricted free agent. The faster but more fragile Moss replaced him as the Jets’ No. 1 receiver that season with 74 catches and 10 touchdowns.

In 2004, Coles caught 90 passes for new coach Joe Gibbs but scored just one touchdown. He stopped talking to the media and told his agent he wanted out. Asked last week whether he had been in a divided locker room, Coles said, “When I was in Washington, we were awful.”

Meanwhile, Moss had slumped badly in New York, and his contract was going to expire after the 2005 season. The Redskins needed someone who could make big plays. The Jets wanted a reliable receiver.

So the ex-teammates were traded for each other.

“You don’t like for something like that to happen where … a player wants to leave,” Gibbs said. “We worked out something that has probably been good for both teams. We love Santana. Laveranues is a highly competitive guy that they like.”

The deal was a hands-down winner for Washington at first. Moss burned Dallas with two late touchdown grabs in his second game and went on to set the team record for receiving yards, catch a career-high 84 balls and play in his first Pro Bowl while helping lead the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Coles put up decent numbers, but the Jets finished last in their division, and coach Herman Edwards was fired.

However, Moss’ production dropped markedly in 2006, and the Redskins finished last in their division, while Coles had a fine year as the surprising Jets made the playoffs. As they prepare for Sunday’s game, neither man is having a terrific 2007. Moss has just 20 catches, is averaging a career-worst 12.4 yards and hasn’t come close to the end zone for the 4-3 Redskins. Coles has 42 catches and six touchdowns, but the Jets have crashed to 1-7. He missed practice yesterday as a result of the concussion he suffered in last week’s loss to Buffalo.

So who made the better trade?

Coles has more catches (206 to 159) and more touchdowns (17 to 15) while Moss leads in yards (2,521 to 2,416) despite playing in four fewer games.

Jets coach Eric Mangini, who wasn’t in New York when the trade was made, swears by Coles.

“LC is one of those guys you can call when you’re stranded at the airport and he’ll come get you,” Mangini said. “He’ll help you move when everybody else tells you they have something to do. He cares about his teammates so deeply. His toughness, his competitiveness, I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Moss said he doesn’t pay attention to how Coles is doing.

“It’s what Santana can do to help this team,” Moss said. “Nothing else matters to me. We hung out at times, but … we don’t call each other on a day-to-day basis.”

Springs termed the trade “a win-win.” Guard Pete Kendall, who played the past three years for the Jets, agreed.

“The Jets recognize that they got a good player but they gave one up,” Kendall said. “Vern’s now a captain up there. He was voted team MVP last year. He’s been very productive since he’s gone back to New York. But I also know that they felt like they paid a very steep price to get him. Santana’s had some good years down here. He’s kind of a rare bird. You don’t find a lot of guys with that type of speed.”

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