Saturday, December 9, 2006

Lost in the midst of Washington’s near-elimination from the playoff race with last Sunday’s loss to Atlanta was receiver Santana Moss’ return to the form that made him a Pro Bowl starter last season.

After battling a strained hamstring for five weeks, Moss showed he was back on his initial catch, leaping over Falcons DeAngelo Hall and Chris Crocker to corral a 42-yard lofted pass from Jason Campbell for the touchdown that gave the Redskins an early 14-0 lead.

“The touchdown was like a sigh of relief,” said Moss, who hadn’t scored since the overtime game-winner on Oct. 1 against Jacksonville. I just want to [help] give our team a chance to win games. They got me here for a reason. I felt good [the previous week against Carolina when he had just 12 yards on three catches], too, but your first game back, you’re not going to be yourself. Playing that whole game gave me a game to really say, ‘OK. I did that.’ I had a gauge. I could watch myself on film, say I did all right and now I can do a little more in practice and go out and play a little differently.”

Moss, who was hurt in an Oct. 22 loss to Indianapolis, had seven catches for 123 yards against Atlanta. Despite missing games against Dallas (Nov. 5) and Tampa Bay (Nov. 19) and being a non-factor against Carolina and at Philadelphia (Nov. 12), Moss still leads the Redskins with 41 catches (down from 84 in 2005) and 587 receiving yards (down from his team-record 1,483 in 2005). His four touchdown catches are one behind tight end Chris Cooley’s team-leading total.

“Santana’s back,” Gibbs said. “That’s a thrill for us. He’s a playmaker. We need to get him the ball.”

The Eagles, who visit the Redskins tomorrow, have perhaps the NFL’s top secondary. But they didn’t see the real Moss last time when he came back too soon from the hamstring injury and caught just three balls for 17 yards.

“I thought I was feeling better and I went out there and tried to be the threat for my offense,” Moss said. “I felt like I had healed, but I didn’t have the strength I needed. I feel 10 times better than I did in Philly. I hope we can finish the season strong and week-in and week-out, I can elevate my game a little more for this team.”

As ready as can be

Offensive tackle Jon Jansen, who has been bothered for weeks by a strained calf, and reserve tight end Todd Yoder, who injured a thigh last Sunday against Atlanta, both returned to practice yesterday meaning that coach Joe Gibbs can choose from the full 53-man roster for the first time all season. Assistant head coach Gregg Williams said that he plans to ease strong safety Troy Vincent back into action after being sidelined two weeks with a strained hamstring so Vernon Fox likely will make a third straight start at that spot.

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