- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

At 6-foot-3 and 249 pounds, Chris Cooley has enough size and speed to work his way free of defenders. But the fifth-year veteran, a free spirit off the field, was more than a little too free on his blog last weekend.

Cooley revealed a quiz coach Jim Zorn had given his players about New Orleans’ defense - and his, ahem, private parts. The resulting buzz has overshadowed the discussions of the 29-24 comeback victory over the visiting Saints on Sunday.

“I feel really bad about it,” Cooley said. “I got a lot of jokes about how does that happen, but it’s me.”

Indeed as Cooley said, “My family knows … they’re always going to have something out there they’re going to have to deal with.”

But Zorn didn’t know he would have to deal with such foolishness. The rookie coach held a team meeting about Cooley’s blog Wednesday morning and described the tight end’s judgement as “very embarrassing.”

“It’s something that nobody would ever realize we would have to deal with,” said Zorn, who won’t fine Cooley. “There’s all this new technology out there that people have the freedom to use, but you don’t really have the freedom with some things that are really private to us. [The nudity] he has apologized a lot for. He’ll have to deal with any repercussions that come from that. The thing that I’m really concerned is the Redskins stuff.”

Cooley, for his part, wasn’t concerned that he had just one catch five quarters into the season. Quarterback Jason Campbell passed to five targets before throwing to Cooley in the regular-season opener against the New York Giants. Last week against New Orleans, seven teammates had passes aimed in their direction before Cooley, the only Redskins offensive skill player to make a Pro Bowl during either of the previous two seasons.

“Any time you become All-Pro, you’ve got a target on you,” tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said.

Said Cooley: “I’m almost a niche-type of player, an H-back, move-around kind of guy. We’ve had three offenses in five years. New coaches have to figure out how to use me.”

Apparently, Zorn figured that out in the final three quarters against the Saints. Cooley had five catches for 73 yards, including the 23-yard grab on second-and-22 from the Washington 6 that ignited the fourth-quarter comeback. That wasn’t the way the play was designed, but the 12-yard sack on the previous snap caused confusion.

“It was a little haywire,” Cooley said. “We didn’t know what personnel was coming in. Guys were coming in and out of the huddle. I think at one point we had 13 guys on the field. It should’ve been a penalty.

“If we have double, two receivers on each side, the inside receivers release outside and run seams. If it’s trips, the middle receiver runs a crossing route. We called double but wound up in trips. I still ran the vertical, and [receiver Antwaan] Randle El and I wound up running side by side. Jason threw it high and I went up for the ball. It’s cool that the quarterback trusts me enough to throw it so I could up and get it and make the play. Those are the type of plays that change games.”

Tight ends making game-changing plays is unusual for Zorn. During his seven years as Seattle’s quarterbacks coach, the Seahawks starting tight ends averaged 34 catches, 361 yards and three touchdowns.

“Good coaches take advantage of their personnel,” Cooley said. “The first thing Zorn did [when he joined Washington’s coaching staff] was call me and say that he was very excited to use me and give me as many opportunities as possible. No one was happy with Week 1. We played bad. Last week, everyone played well. I was happy to get five catches. If I had five catches for 70 yards every week, that would be 80 catches, and you’re going to be pretty excited.”

Last year Cooley missed the late Jerry Smith’s team tight-end record of 849 receiving yards by 63 while becoming the first Redskins tight end to lead the team in touchdown catches since Smith in 1970.

“I really truly sense that I could catch 80-plus balls,” Cooley said. “I feel like we’re going to throw the ball enough. It’s a different style offense than we’ve had. It’s not run, run, run and try to throw the ball a little bit deeper. You get a lot more passes, a lot more short passes.”

Zorn agrees.

“I think he should catch [at least five passes]every game,” Zorn said. “We should be getting him the ball, and we’re trying to.”

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