- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Amid the din of criticism, the Washington Redskins and wide receiver Santana Moss believe they’ve found a perfect union.

Washington, which completed just nine passes of 30 or more yards last season, is getting an unquestioned burner who can beat safeties to the deep middle and turn modest gains into touchdowns.

And Moss, who felt lost in the New York Jets’ run-first offense, gets a fresh start in a unit that, in his opinion, isn’t as “conservative” as the one wide receiver Laveranues Coles so eagerly joined in the Redskins’ and Jets’ swap of grumpy wide receivers this week.

“You can look at his numbers,” Moss said of Coles, who caught a career-high 90 passes last season. “He had opportunities. A [Redskins] coach even showed me, he had like 100-something balls attempted to him. I had like 60-something balls attempted to me. What’s conservative?”

One frustrated wideout exits, another enters. One wants more yards per catch, the other wants more catches to go with his yards. But the Redskins, who formally introduced Moss in a news conference yesterday morning, believe speed is a crucial difference between the guy they got and the one they gave up.

Coles suffered a toe injury three games into his Redskins stay in 2003 and rarely made home run plays. Coach Joe Gibbs believes that void will be filled by Moss, a former track star at the University of Miami and one of the few NFL players who legitimately can claim to run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds.

“Here’s what jumps out at you on film: When he hits the ground with the ball, he’s extremely quick and elusive,” Gibbs said. “He’s a great runner with the ball. He went to college really on a track scholarship. He’s a bona fide speed guy.”

Many observers disagree with Gibbs’ choice. The critics see Washington giving up a 2003 Pro Bowl pick for an oft-injured, smallish (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) one-hit wonder. Moss’ only big season came in 2003, when he caught 74 passes for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But Moss, who averaged a sterling 18.6 yards per catch in an otherwise pedestrian 2004 season, just might be the type of dynamic talent that would take Coles’ 90 catches and turn them into some breathtaking yardage totals. For his part, Moss is confident he could return to an elite level with a concerted effort to get him the ball.

“All a player can be is what you allow him to be,” Moss said. “In New York, if I could have been something bigger, I would have been bigger. I don’t worry about what someone wants. All I can do is what you allow me to do.”

A few issues related to Moss remain uncertain. For one, he might or might not return punts. Moss owns a career 12.0-yard average and ran back a 75-yard touchdown in January’s AFC divisional round, but hamstring problems and concern about his starting duties limited his returns last year. Yesterday Gibbs said the issue would be decided by special teams coach Danny Smith once minicamps get under way.

The other issue is Moss’ contract. He has one year left on his rookie deal at $448,000, and the Redskins are said to be working on an extension. But normally talkative agent Drew Rosenhaus flatly declined comment on the subject yesterday.

But Washington feels its speed on offense should be unquestioned next season, when Moss and newly acquired David Patten start at receiver with Clinton Portis coming out of the backfield.

“I don’t like to talk about myself too much, but I have some pretty good wheels,” Moss said. “I don’t consider myself the fastest [in the NFL]. But there’s no telling how fast I can go.”

Notes — Sean Taylor won an appeal in Fairfax County Circuit Court as judge Randy I. Bellows dismissed the charge of refusing to take a breathalyzer. The decision means Taylor, who was arrested for DUI on Oct. 28 and acquitted on Jan. 5, was cleared of all charges related to the incident. … Quarterback Mark Brunell restructured his contract to save Washington $1 million against the 2005 salary cap, agent Leigh Steinberg confirmed.

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