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FFS: Moss makes the most of his starring role


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Moss makes the most of his starring role



ASHBURN--Santana Moss says he's no different than he was as a rookie or a college student--or a kid, for that matter.

The Washington Redskins wide receiver has always had a knack for catching a football and dashing down the field in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sort of way. He's always had sure hands and he's always caught long passes.

Moss says the reason he's suddenly become so relevant, the reason he's averaging more yards per game than anyone in the NFL, is that he's in an offense where he's become the threat.

Oh, Moss has been a top receiver before. But so far this season, he's undeniably become undeniable.

"I've been making these plays all my life, you just have to play to the role that teams use you," Moss said yesterday. "When I was in New York [with the Jets], I played to the role. I had to fit into that offense. Now I'm over here getting more opportunities."

Through five games, Moss has 33 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns, putting him seven yards behind league leader Torry Holt, despite having played one fewer games.

Moss is on pace to catch 106 balls for 2,019 yards, which would set an NFL record and shatter his career high of 1,105 yards, set with the Jets in 2003.

In March, the Redskins sent disgruntled wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the Jets in exchange for Moss.

In Coles, the Jets got a bigger, stronger and more experienced receiver. In Moss, the Redskins got a receiver who seemed ready to blossom, but wasn't quite there yet.

"When it happened, I looked at is as a blessing to get away and be able to start over and be used the way I wanted to," Moss said. "Here I am in Washington."

The chemistry Moss and quarterback Mark Brunell have forged has been remarkable, especially considering Brunell went through training camp as the backup before supplanting Patrick Ramsey midway through the season's opening game.

"We had enough time with each other," Moss said, "but I felt like the more we played, the better our grasp would be."

After catching four passes for 96 yards in his season debut, Moss solidified his spot in Redskins lore against the rival Dallas Cowboys the following Monday. He caught touchdowns of 39 and 70 yards in the final four minutes, sending Washington to a 14-13 victory.

Moss caught six passes for 87 yards against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 2, and snagged eight balls for 116 yards in the rain against the Denver Broncos the following week.

In last Sunday's loss to Kansas City, the former University of Miami star grabbed 10 passes for a career-high 173 yards, and also scored two touchdowns.

Three of his four TDs this year have been for more than 39 yards. Last year the Redskins' longest offensive touchdown was 18 yards.

"Santana's as good as anybody out there, I think," Brunell said. "We've got to find a way to keep it going. He's not a secret anymore; that's the problem."

Though the secret may be out, Moss' early onslaught figures to help the Redskins later, even if his yardage totals take a dip. If the speedy wideout can start drawing extra coverage, that will help open the Redskins' hiccuping rushing offense, which has yet to record a touchdown this season.

"I just want to keep doing it," Moss said. "I'm just going out there and doing what's presented. When I'm on the field, I want to be productive."

This Sunday Moss will have an excellent chance to continue his surge. The Redskins play host to the San Francisco 49ers, who tote the league's worst pass defense, giving up an average 343.6 yards per game.

Injury report

The Redskins' secondary got a lift yesterday when cornerback Shawn Springs (shin) and safety Ryan Clark (spleen) returned to practice. Both players missed last Sunday's loss.

"Coach [Gregg] Williams has been getting on me about having a week off," Springs said, "but I feel better and I'll be ready this Sunday."

DL Cedric Killings (ankle), RB Clinton Portis (calf), C Casey Rabach (ankle), CB Carlos Rogers (ankle) and DL Joe Salave'a (foot) all missed practice yesterday.

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