Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss is quietly climbing the charts.
Entering his ninth year with the organization and 13th in the NFL, Moss’ career numbers put him in elite company. He has appeared in 120 games with the Redskins. A healthy 2013 and Moss will have played more games in Washington than franchise legend Sonny Jurgensen (135).
Moss needs only 21 receptions to pass Gary Clark (549) on the all-time list. At 529 catches entering the season, only Art Monk (888) and Charley Taylor (649) are out of reach. With 45 touchdowns, he could pass Bobby Mitchell (49) in that category, too. That would rank sixth in Redskins history.
The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder long ago proved concerns about his size coming out of the University of Miami were unfounded. Four times, Moss has topped 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Now he’s trying to prove that age can’t slow him down, either. At 34, Moss is no longer the No. 1 receiving option as he was his first six years in Washington. That is Pierre Garcon now. Even in 2011, Jabar Gaffney and tight end Fred Davis had more receiving yards as Moss missed four games. Wide receiver is just not a position where you see many players in their mid-30s.
“I know a lot of people can’t do it,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “I think last year [Moss] was better for us than he was the prior two years even though the stats weren’t the same.”
That’s because Moss was a trusted, valuable weapon for quarterback Robert Griffin III last season with 41 receptions — 15 of them on third down — and he expects to be again as a veteran slot receiver on a team that hopes to defend its NFC East title.
In the preseason, at least, Washington showed well, but this journey has barely started and Moss has been around long enough now to know what really matters. The Redskins haven’t reached the playoffs two consecutive years since 1991 and 1992.
“I’ll put stock in it when it’s done, when it counts,” Moss said. “Right now, you grade yourself off what you put in. So when you go out there and see you’re putting in wins in the preseason and putting good stuff on film then all you can do is have high hopes for what you can do in Week 1.”
Those 41 catches in 2012 were Moss’ fewest since he had 45 with the New York Jets in 2004. And yet he still managed eight touchdowns and appeared in every game. Moss is no longer the deep threat he was in 2005 when he set the franchise record for single-season receiving yards (1,483). Even in 2010 he posted 1,115. Those days are gone.
But that slot receiver role is still an important one. With the veteran no longer expected to carry a heavy load, the Redskins could pick spots for Moss. Earlier in his career he faded at times late in seasons. Last year his legs appeared strong during the stretch run. Instead of working his way back into shape during training camp, Moss trained during the spring and arrived ready to go.
It made a difference last fall and the coaches have seen it again from him this summer. That’s given Moss a chance to stick with the Redskins and push himself higher into the franchise’s record books next to Hall of Famers like Monk and Taylor and a fan favorite like Clark. Despite his longevity in Washington, that recognition hasn’t always been easy for Moss to come by.
“You can’t help but look up to him,” said Redskins wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, a fellow South Florida native who worked out with Moss during the offseason. “He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s been one of the top receivers for so long and he really doesn’t get noticed for it.”
Moss’ name has even surfaced in the search for a punt returner in the wake of Richard Crawford’s season-ending knee injury. And while not thrilled about that option, Moss said he would take on that role, too, if asked. He has three career touchdowns on special teams, but his last punt return came in 2009.
“You can see some of the plays he has made thus far at camp, [see] that he’s hungry,” Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. “And he’s going to play at a very high level.”