- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Ask Hue Jackson about the trio of receivers now at his disposal and the Washington Redskins offensive coordinator springs to life.

"I'm as excited as anyone," Jackson says. "What we have done to our offensive football team over the last several months is improve by leaps and bounds."

From the moment they wrapped up a disappointing 7-9 season in December, the Redskins made it known they intended to overhaul their receiving corps. The intent: supply Jackson, coach Steve Spurrier and second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey with the kind of weapons the Fun 'n' Gun needs to be successful in the NFL.

When owner Dan Snyder pried Laveranues Coles away from the New York Jets last month by offering the restricted free agent a $13 million signing bonus, most observers figured the Redskins were done adding wideouts. With Coles added to returning starter Rod Gardner and backups Patrick Johnson, Darnerien McCants and Cliff Russell, there seemed little need to acquire another receiver through the NFL Draft.

That was, until Taylor Jacobs became available in Saturday's second round.

The Redskins, who had Jacobs rated 18th among all draft-eligible players, couldn't pass on Spurrier's old Florida Gators receiver. So they drafted Jacobs at No. 44 overall, bypassing what appeared to be more pressing needs at safety and defensive tackle.

"It's very hard to pass up a guy who you think is a first-round player," Jackson said. "We said, 'Hey, we've got to go take the best player.' And at the time, he was the best player for us to take."

In the end, Washington addressed the receiver position like no other this offseason. In essence, the Redskins selected receivers with both their first- and second-round draft picks, because they had to give their top pick to the Jets as compensation for Coles.

The result is a receiving trio (Coles, Gardner and Jacobs) that ultimately could measure up with the best in the NFL.

"Now I feel like we have the depth we need to go into the season and be able to get it accomplished," said Gardner, whose 71 receptions last year led the team. "Right now, with the team we have, I don't think we can be stopped."

The Redskins' four leading receivers last season were Gardner, Derrius Thompson (53) and running backs Kenny Watson (32) and Stephen Davis (23). Thompson and Davis are gone, having signed with Miami and Carolina, respectively. And Watson, who must compete for significant playing time in the backfield, may not make the opening day roster.

Now the top threats figure to be Gardner, Coles and Jacobs (all 1,000-yard receivers last year, Jacobs on the college level) and running back Trung Canidate, acquired in a trade from St. Louis.

"It just gives you the ability to spread the field and gives you all kinds of options," Spurrier said.

Gardner is coming off a breakout season as the Redskins' go-to receiver, and he believes the club's new additions will only make him better.

"It really takes the pressure off you. You don't feel like you have go out there and make every play," he said. "It's hard when they double-team you and plan coverages toward your side. Now you have to worry about me, you have to worry about Laveranues and you have to worry about Jacobs in the slot."

Jacobs had been hoping all along to be reunited with Spurrier. But after his former coach signed Coles last month, he figured there was no chance of getting drafted by the Redskins, even when the second round arrived Saturday without his name being called.

"I was sitting there with my mom and my dad saying the Redskins are probably not going to pick another receiver," Jacobs said yesterday upon being introduced at Redskin Park. "They already got the guy they wanted. So I didn't really think it was going to happen."

When Spurrier called a few minutes later and told him he was about to be drafted, Jacobs couldn't believe his good fortune.

"I guess things happen for a reason," he said.

Spurrier won't yet commit to Jacobs as his No. 3 receiver behind Gardner and Coles, but given the former Gator's familiarity with the Redskins' system, he figures to see significant playing time right away.

Washington's coaching staff will get its first chance to see how all the pieces acquired over the last two months fit together when the team opens minicamp Friday.

The three-day event is merely the next phase of the Redskins' busy offseason. And Jackson, for one, can't wait to get his new-look unit on the field.

"I think what we'll be able to do is what we set out all along to do," he said, "to put an offensive football team out there that has the capability of making a big play at any time. We've accomplished our goal."

Notes The Redskins announced the signings of 12 undrafted college players: Iowa quarterback Brad Banks, Georgia linebacker Chris Clemons, Georgia defensive lineman Nic Clemons, Texas Tech fullback Preston Hartfield, Clemson cornerback Brian Mance, Southern California running back Sultan McCullough, Richmond offensive lineman Justin McElfish, Utah State cornerback Ade Jimoh, Bowie State wide receiver James Johnson, Howard cornerback Serge Sejour, Syracuse linebacker Clifton Smith and Washington tight end Kevin Ware. Personnel director Vinny Cerrato said three or four of the dozen have a chance to make the final roster. …

The Redskins released running back Eric McCoo to make room for the newcomers on the 80-man roster. … Fullback Bryan Johnson, Washington's last unsigned exclusive-rights player, has decided to sign his one-year, $375,000 tender offer, agent Derrick Fox said. There appears to be mutual interest between the club and Johnson to work on an extension in coming months.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.

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