ASHBURN – Before the Redskins began signing free agents this past spring, one player stood out in my mind that could make an immediate impact in helping Washington win. That player is Pierre Garcon. Some critics doubt the former No. 2 wide out from Indianapolis will succeed as the ‘Skins’ No.1. Lest not forget the same was said of Santana Moss, who proved his critics wrong, finding great success for many years here in DC. Moss regressed last season with just 46 receptions and played just 12 games (fewest since his rookie year (5)) due to injuries, as he entered the twilight stage of his career. But the veteran has become reinvigorated with anticipation with the addition of new talent.
Garcon’s presence alone should make Moss a better receiver this season.
Just two months ago many scribes, including myself, questioned whether Moss would earn a roster spot in 2012. After playing all 16 regular-season games for three successive seasons, the reliable wide out fell victim to injury and missed four games.
Moss caught just four touchdown passes in 2011 and tallied 584 yards receiving. However, he did not fumble once – a problem (10 fumbles in seven seasons) that has presented itself in Washington, especially in 2010 when he lost the ball a career-high four times. But now, after hearing Mike Shanahan and fellow Redskins glowingly praise the veteran’s physical condition and reinvigorated attitude, I honestly feel Moss could very well compete for “comeback player of the year” this season.
Names like Alvin Garret, Charlie Brown, Gary Clark and Art Monk bring smiles to the faces of Redskins fans across the nation. But Washington has lacked talent and/or character, as a unit at wide receiver since the mid 90s. Yes, certain receivers such as Michael Westbrook and Rod Gardner showed flashes throughout the years but consistency has long been an issue at the position. One piece has always been missing. I think Garcon is that missing piece. The 25-year-old will split wide, opposite Morgan or Hankerson, allowing Moss to transition to the slot – the prime spot for his talent. The former Hurricane shines at moving the chains. This is one area where Moss did not drop-off in 2011, as 35 of his 46 receptions resulted in first downs. Garcon excels at YAC. His deeper routes will open it up underneath for Moss. The two receivers complement each other perfectly and opposing teams (even on shorter routes) will need a safety over the top to keep either from busting one open. Add to this the threat of Leonard Hankerson, Fred Davis and Roy Helu out of the backfield, and Robert Griffin III should have at least one target open downfield.
One critical factor between quarterback and receiver, is ‘trust.’ When Mark Brunell took the helm for Washington in 2005, Santana Moss was on the receiving end of the majority of his passes, catching nine TDs – his best performance with the ‘Skins. Moss came to the Redskins via a trade with the Jets that year. Early in his first season as a Redskin, Moss and his veteran quarterback found immediate chemistry. The former Jet gained trust in Brunell’s ability and became his ‘go-to’ guy in Dallas. With Washington down 13-0, the duo hooked up twice for big-play touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game to defeat the Cowboys, 14-13. That dynamic rapport lasted until Brunell left town. Moss also believed in Jason Campbell and thrived during his time in Washington as well. But I don’t believe Moss ever truly trusted Rex Grossman or John Beck for that matter, and his excitement for the game spiraled away. Moss looked indifferent, gained weight and in my opinion, failed to enjoy playing football last year. Who could blame him though? The Redskins have made just two playoff appearances during his seven seasons in DC. However, once The Redskins signed Garcon and drafted RGIII, Moss trimmed down, refueled and regained interest in becoming that ‘go-to’ guy once again.
Solid receiving corps played a crucial role for Washington Redskin teams in ‘The Glory Days,’ and I believe Redskins Nation will soon witness this again in Garcon, Hankerson and Moss. It’s comforting to know that the young ones at wide out will have the savvy veteran to lead them both on the field, and in the locker room. Hail Skins.
You can follow Todd Smith on Twitter @tcsmitty