- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

For the Washington Redskins, this "Deep Six" is a good thing.
The Redskins find themselves with a surplus of good receivers after the new spread offense of coach Steve Spurrier left the San Francisco 49ers' defense hopelessly scrambling. The problem will be determining which six make the final roster.
Chris Doering, Darnerien McCants and Derrius Thompson combined for 11 catches and four touchdowns in the Redskins' 38-7 victory over San Francisco on Saturday in Osaka, Japan and they're not even starters. The Fun 'N' Gun has the Redskins looking like the St. Louis Rams, whose high-powered offense comes in waves.
"This may be the deepest receiving corps I've been with," Doering said. "There are guys on this team who can play anywhere in the league. Whoever gets cut will have a chance to play elsewhere."
The Redskins could have their deepest receiving corps since the trio of Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders dominated defenses from 1988 to 1993.
How good this group will be still is a question. The receiving corps largely consists of young, inexperienced players and journeymen and was considered one of the unknowns of the offense entering training camp. Still, it seems certain that, if nothing else, this group will see more action than it has in recent seasons.
The team recently has relied more on running backs and tight ends to catch passes. In fact, only in 2000 did the Redskins have three receivers finish with 39 or more catches. They might have at least four receivers with more than 35 catches this season. Last year, the Rams had four catch between 38 and 81 passes.
Rod Gardner and Jacquez Green will start, with Kevin Lockett often playing in three-receiver sets. The competition stiffens for the two or three remaining roster slots. Justin Skaggs or McCants may double as a kick returner and take the fourth slot. That leaves Skaggs or McCants competing with Reidel Anthony, Doering and Thompson for one or two openings.
It won't be an easy choice because each of the reserves offers either strong potential or experience in the system. The Redskins completed 26 of 45 for 441 yards in the pro debut of Spurrier, whose teams averaged 42 passes per game over 12 seasons at Florida. The Redskins will rely on reserves as much as starters throughout the season to make the new pass-oriented offense effective.
Quarterback Danny Wuerffel thrived in the "Fun 'N' Gun" when he led Florida to the 1996 national championship and captured the Heisman Trophy. Wuerffel hasn't thrown a regular-season pass in his past three seasons in the NFL, but he connected with his former college teammate Doering four times for 66 yards against the 49ers a welcome flashback to their Gators days for both.
"This is the most fun I've had playing football in a long time," Wuerffel said.
Doering would be a perfect complement to Wuerffel if the latter lands the job as the starting quarterback. Doering runs the slant to perfection, which might be worth three receptions per game. Anthony didn't catch a pass against San Francisco but has performed well during camp.
Thompson has waited for his chance since 1999. The past few Redskins coaches liked his potential enough to retain him even though he caught only three passes last year and none in 1999 and 2000. But because Spurrier hasn't invested any time in Thompson, the receiver must prove himself again. So far, he has. Thompson has had a sharp training camp and caught three passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yarder, against the 49ers. Thompson might earn a roster spot.
"I've been here going on four years for a reason, not by luck or chance," he said. "Obviously, I've got the ability."
Lockett thought he caught his big break last year, when he was reunited with former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer after three modest seasons in Kansas City. Instead, he was overlooked in a bad offense and caught only 22 balls.
But Lockett could be the sleeper among receivers. The probable third man in multi-receiver sets, he quickly grasped the new system during offseason workouts and became a legitimate target. Lockett might finally break out this season as the Redskins spread the ball. He caught two passes for 22 yards against the 49ers.
"It's a lot easier than it's ever been for me," he said. "You find yourself free a lot of time."
McCants is the most intriguing of the reserves. The Redskins liked his penchant for scoring; he scored 18 touchdowns on 36 catches as a senior at Delaware State in 2000. He didn't play as a rookie, but coaches love his 6-foot-3, 210-pound size and playmaking ability in practice. He could become a kick returner, too.
Good workouts by McCants forced Spurrier to notice him during offseason practices and training camp. He still makes an occasional mistake he fumbled against the 49ers but McCants' four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44-yarder, revealed his enormous upside.
Ultimately, the Redskins probably will keep six receivers, especially if one also returns kicks and Green returns punts. The only problem will be which six.

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