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'Skins have good reason to get pass-happy

July 2, 2006 12:50 am

WHEN THE NFL SEASON opens in September, the Washington Redskins won't have any problems catching passes. A couple of seasons ago, the Redskins had a group of receivers that offered more questions than answers; now, they're considered one of the NFL's elite.

The only foreseeable problems might be keeping everybody happy and spreading the ball around.

The Redskins can thank stability for their new-found strength and depth at receiver. It wasn't long ago that "Redskins" and "stability" were antonyms. But Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs has changed that. Players are no longer asking to be traded away.

Take the last two offseasons, for example.

Last summer, in the wake of a disappointing 6-10 campaign, Washington's top two receivers (Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner) demanded trades. Gibbs and his staff met their demands.

Conversely, when the Redskins open training camp at the team's headquarters on July 30, the team's top four receivers from last season will be back. Joining them will be two new starting-caliber pass-catchers, both acquired this offseason.

Second-year Redskin Santana Moss remains the go-to option. The former New York Jet is coming off a record-breaking first season in D.C. and the first Pro Bowl selection of his five-year NFL career. A year ago the former Miami Hurricane caught 84 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the game's most lethal route-runners.

Starting opposite Moss as the team's second receiver likely will be Brandon Lloyd, acquired in a March trade with the San Francisco 49ers. Lloyd, entering his fourth year in the NFL, provides strength and size (6-0, 195 pounds) to Washington's otherwise speed-laden receiving corps. His blend of agility and size can present mismatches, as he's often too physical for the undersized cornerbacks trying to cover him.

Lloyd likely will run shorter patterns across the middle of the field, operating as the team's possession receiver. Lining up across from a player who attracts as much attention as Moss should only help his development.

As good as the starting duo is, it's Washington's reserves that make their receiving group one of the best. Former New England Patriot and 10-year NFL veteran David Patten is returning from a knee injury that prematurely ended his first season as a Redskin, and free-agent signee Antwan Randle El figures to play a monumental role helping the Redskins to diversify their sometimes predictable offensive attack. Between them, Patten and Randle El boast four rings, but neither will be content this winter without one for the thumb.

With receivers as dangerous and proven as Washington's top four, there's little doubting the team's pass-catching ability. If this team gets consistent play under center, the Redskins offense should take flight.

GRANT PAULSEN is a 17-year-old sportswriter who lives in King George County. He hosts a talk show each Saturday on XM radio. He can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, or by fax at 373-8455.





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