S. Moss in a hurry to prove his worth

Redskins wide receiver adds needed speed to struggling passing game

August 09, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Even as a 6-year-old, Santana Moss was determined.

Moss, who grew up in Liberty City, Fla., can remember standing on the corner, waiting. As a car turned onto the street, Moss would break into an all-out sprint in a race between boy and machine.

Moss never won. "I can't say I actually beat one," he recalled with a wry grin. "I tried."

That kind of tenacity has defined the Washington Redskins' new No. 1 wide receiver, who has spent most of his life readying himself for this level.

In high school, Moss videotaped Saturday's college football games involving Florida and Miami and spent Sundays copying the receivers' routes. At Miami, he parlayed a Big East Conference record-setting time in the 60-meter sprint (6.83 seconds) into a school-record 2,546 career receiving yards.

And Moss had 119 receptions, 1,943 yards and 15 touchdowns in his last two seasons with the New York Jets despite questions about his 5-foot-10 frame.

"For years, they [the critics] always talked about the small guy," Moss, 26, said. "I don't wish to be any bigger than what I am because I feel that the stuff that I have in this package was given for a reason, for me to use it and that's what I want to do."

The Redskins are pleased that Moss will be doing what he does for them. Washington traded away Laveranues Coles for Moss - who averaged 18.6 yards a catch last season, the second-best among NFL receivers with at least 20 catches - in an effort to revive a passing game that ranked 29th last season.

Paired with free agent David Patten, Moss gives the offense a pair of legitimate deep threats who use their speed to attack the secondary.

Moss' explosiveness can be seen in practice. The downfield threat has forced a few of the Redskins cornerbacks to give him a huge cushion. Sometimes, Moss uses that space to break off routes for a 7- or 8-yard gain. Sometimes, he takes his defender deep and out of the play.

Yet, Moss doesn't rely only on his speed. He looks at the routes in the offense's playbook, studying and running them to perfection. After Moss and the organization agreed in May to a six-year, $31 million contract that included $11 million in guaranteed money after the trade, he spent a majority of the remaining offseason working out with quarterback Patrick Ramsey and Patten.

"You can't just be fast and have no other part of the game," Moss said. "If I was just a fast guy, I wouldn't be able to do all this. All fast guys don't make it. I think my route-running came with the speed."

Moss' presence has had an indirect effect on the Redskins cornerbacks. Shawn Springs, who is frequently matched up against Moss, said he enjoys lining up against him.

"The little, quick guys, they get challenging because they're bunny rabbits," Springs said. "When you get to the bigger guys, it's a lot easier. Where a guy like T.O. [Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens] might be easier for me because he's bigger and I can match his size, Santana's a little different because he's the opposite."

NOTE: Wide receiver Taylor Jacobs will miss the rest of the week with a sprained toe. Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that a magnetic resonance imaging exam did not show any torn ligaments, but noted that Jacobs would rest and be re-examined after the team's first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday. Springs (tight hamstring) was held out of practice, and Gibbs excused defensive end Renaldo Wynn because of the death of his father-in-law.

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