- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Reidel Anthony didn't survive training camp. Kevin Lockett was cut on Halloween, Jacquez Green 12 days later. Derrius Thompson was so disappointing that he was benched for two games in October. And Darnerien McCants was inactive, though healthy, for seven games.
Other than No.1 wideout Rod Gardner and Chris Doering, who was not considered starter material, that was the state of the receiving corps that was supposed to provide the fun in the Fun'n'Gun. So coach Steve Spurrier and the rest of the Washington Redskins' braintrust had planned to look for two top wideouts during the offseason to use alongside Gardner in 2003.
But not only has Gardner had a fine season and McCants his moments of late, Thompson might have changed the team's plans. Over the past four games the last two since rookie Patrick Ramsey regained the starting quarterback job that he's expected to keep next season Thompson has caught 24 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
That tops his production through the first 11 games and, projected over a 16-game season, would produce Pro Bowl numbers: 96 catches, 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns. And Thompson wasn't performing against porous defenses. Dallas, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and Houston all ranked in the top 13 when the Redskins played them.
"I feel like I've grown a lot over the past few games," Thompson said. "I've been given more opportunities to show what I can do. Just being around the guys and watching film helped me. Every week I feel more and more comfortable."
Doering, who played in Spurrier's scheme at Florida, knows it better than any of the other receivers, and he sees the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Thompson as a legitimate Fun 'n'Gun starter.
"Derrius is big, strong and pretty darn fast," Doering said. "You want to be able to stretch the defense once in a while, but it's more important in this offense to run good routes, put your foot in the ground and separate. Derrius had to learn that this year. You can see how he's catching up to the learning curve now. He's making a lot of plays."
Thompson had two superb catches in Sunday's 26-10 victory over the Texans, a 14-yard grab on a crossing pattern against Pro Bowl cornerback Aaron Glenn and a leaping 13-yard touchdown on which he readjusted to Ramsey's underthrown pass.
"It wasn't that great a throw by Patrick, but Derrius made him look real good," tight end Walter Rasby said. "The one across the middle was even better. When you can start making big-time plays like that, that really weighs on a coach's mind. They start developing plays for you and calling your number. Derrius has shown that he has the talent. The whole question and I'm sure the coaches are asking themselves is, 'can he be consistent?'"
It took Thompson, who joined the Redskins as a very raw rookie free agent out of Baylor in 1999, nearly 2 seasons to catch his first pass, but he's still just 25. And Doering expects the newcomers to the offense like Ramsey and Thompson to make a "quantum leap" next season after this year's experience and a full offseason together.
"It's just a matter of time before I feel comfortable and live up to my potential," Thompson said. "I need another year or two. I have so much more to give to the game."
Thompson will be a free agent come March, and his late-season surge could generate some interest in the marketplace, but he would like to remain a Redskin. Washington is interested in potential free agents David Boston of Arizona and Peerless Price of Buffalo, but each would be a very expensive addition for a team likely to have little salary cap room. Thompson would come much cheaper and already has a year in the system.
Gardner and McCants will be back and Doering probably will be. The Redskins, who might well use their first-round draft pick on a receiver, also have ex-Utah speedster Cliff Russell on injured reserve. Russell, Washington's third-round draft pick in 2002, is doing well in his rehabilitation after blowing out a knee last summer and will be ready for minicamp.
"Derrius has come around nicely," Spurrier said. "He's got some excellent hands. When the ball hits, he usually hangs on. He makes some nice catches in traffic. It seems like everybody has to do that in this league. You just don't get as open as [in college].
"We've talked about trying to find one real fast guy, maybe a 4.3-type guy [like Russell. But] our top three receivers Derrius, Rod and Darnerien have a lot of ability."

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