- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 26, 2009

Growing up in a tough section of Miami, Santana Moss learned to expect the worst and hope for the best.

So far this season, he certainly is seeing the worst: The Washington Redskins’ No. 1 receiver is off to the poorest start of his five seasons with the club.

The 5-foot-10 Moss, whose worst season with the Redskins was better than the best year of any of the team’s other wideouts in that span, always has been the focus of opposing secondaries.

The placement of 6-4 Malcolm Kelly opposite Moss in the spot of 5-10 Antwaan Randle El was supposed to free Moss from constant double coverage. But defenses are waiting for Kelly, who has five catches for 47 yards, to show he requires extra attention.

So for now, Moss is getting doubled even more.

“You gotta expect the worst,” he said. “I’m not going to walk into a dark alley and say there might not be three guys waiting to jump me. You gotta say there might be three guys in here. … Every time I’m out there, I’m thinking about going through an alley. I see the safety looking at me, the linebacker underneath and the corner.”

Moss caught just five passes for 41 yards without a touchdown in the first two games - far below his averages of nine catches, 203 yards and a touchdown in his first four Redskins seasons.

“I didn’t expect… to have guys pressing on me, safeties over the top,” said Moss, who turned 30 in June. “Even when you think the safety’s blitzing on your side, the backside safety’s coming over the top. I can’t give you an answer for it. I’m not [coaching] defenses. I just feel like if you look… at the percentage of what we did when it came to the receivers, [double-covering me is] a no-brainer.”

Coach Jim Zorn and quarterback Jason Campbell still want to get the ball to Moss, the team’s only true downfield threat. Wearing an NFL Films microphone during last week’s victory over St. Louis, Zorn told Moss on the sideline: “I’ve got all these plays that I got you in mind. I’m just gonna start dialin’ ‘em up and get you the rock.”

On second-and-10 at the St. Louis 47 late in the third quarter and with his team trailing 7-6, Zorn did indeed dial up a bomb to Moss. Campbell, however, was pressured quickly and didn’t have time to get the ball deep, throwing it away underneath before being knocked to the ground.

Campbell and Zorn instantly expressed their frustration at the missed opportunity.

“It’s like a game of chess - you have to have almost the perfect play at the right time,” Moss said. “I was open - wide open. The play never got off, so we will never know what would happen. I would like to think it would have been a touchdown, knowing that we ran it before and that’s what happened, but it never got off.”

The question is what the Redskins can do to get Moss to take off starting Sunday at Detroit, which has lost 19 games in a row.

“I can just tell you we’re trying,” Zorn said. “I think it would be a real problem if you would see him coming to my office going, ‘What about me?’ I think he realizes that we’re making efforts and that we’re going to continue to do that.”

Moss had a monster game at Detroit last year: He caught nine passes for 140 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown pass, and scored on an 80-yard punt return. But Moss, always expecting the worst, said that performance isn’t necessarily a harbinger.

“They might double the [heck] out of me, too,” he said.

Now coached by Jim Schwartz, who coordinated top-notch defenses with the Tennessee Titans, the Lions might do just that.

The good news for Moss is that he doesn’t usually stay down for long. Last season, he was held without a reception in Week 5 and caught only two passes for 22 yards in the next game. He then caught four passes for 75 yards and a score in Week 7 before surging against the Lions.

In 2007, he burst out of an injury-plagued season with nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11.

“All I can control is to be the guy I am and continue to practice hard,” Moss said. “When it all swings over… they be showing the highlights saying, ‘OK, here he go, he got freed up and he made a play.’ ”

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