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Thompson may have changed team's plans


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http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports/20021225-84213859.htm

Receiver may alter Redskins' planning

By David Elfin

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Reidel Anthony didn't survive training camp. Kevin Lockett was cut on Halloween, Jacquez Green 12 days later. Derrius Thompson was so disappointing that he was benched for two games in October. And Darnerien McCants was inactive, though healthy, for seven games.

Other than No.1 wideout Rod Gardner and Chris Doering, who was not considered starter material, that was the state of the receiving corps that was supposed to provide the fun in the Fun'n'Gun. So coach Steve Spurrier and the rest of the Washington Redskins' braintrust had planned to look for two top wideouts during the offseason to use alongside Gardner in 2003.

But not only has Gardner had a fine season and McCants his moments of late, Thompson might have changed the team's plans. Over the past four games — the last two since rookie Patrick Ramsey regained the starting quarterback job that he's expected to keep next season — Thompson has caught 24 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns.

That tops his production through the first 11 games and, projected over a 16-game season, would produce Pro Bowl numbers: 96 catches, 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns. And Thompson wasn't performing against porous defenses. Dallas, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and Houston all ranked in the top 13 when the Redskins played them.

"I feel like I've grown a lot over the past few games," Thompson said. "I've been given more opportunities to show what I can do. Just being around the guys and watching film helped me. Every week I feel more and more comfortable."

Doering, who played in Spurrier's scheme at Florida, knows it better than any of the other receivers, and he sees the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Thompson as a legitimate Fun 'n'Gun starter.

"Derrius is big, strong and pretty darn fast," Doering said. "You want to be able to stretch the defense once in a while, but it's more important in this offense to run good routes, put your foot in the ground and separate. Derrius had to learn that this year. You can see how he's catching up to the learning curve now. He's making a lot of plays."

Thompson had two superb catches in Sunday's 26-10 victory over the Texans, a 14-yard grab on a crossing pattern against Pro Bowl cornerback Aaron Glenn and a leaping 13-yard touchdown on which he readjusted to Ramsey's underthrown pass.

"It wasn't that great a throw by Patrick, but Derrius made him look real good," tight end Walter Rasby said. "The one across the middle was even better. When you can start making big-time plays like that, that really weighs on a coach's mind. They start developing plays for you and calling your number. Derrius has shown that he has the talent. The whole question — and I'm sure the coaches are asking themselves — is, 'can he be consistent?'"

It took Thompson, who joined the Redskins as a very raw rookie free agent out of Baylor in 1999, nearly 2½ seasons to catch his first pass, but he's still just 25. And Doering expects the newcomers to the offense like Ramsey and Thompson to make a "quantum leap" next season after this year's experience and a full offseason together.

"It's just a matter of time before I feel comfortable and live up to my potential," Thompson said. "I need another year or two. I have so much more to give to the game."

Thompson will be a free agent come March, and his late-season surge could generate some interest in the marketplace, but he would like to remain a Redskin. Washington is interested in potential free agents David Boston of Arizona and Peerless Price of Buffalo, but each would be a very expensive addition for a team likely to have little salary cap room. Thompson would come much cheaper and already has a year in the system.

Gardner and McCants will be back and Doering probably will be. The Redskins, who might well use their first-round draft pick on a receiver, also have ex-Utah speedster Cliff Russell on injured reserve. Russell, Washington's third-round draft pick in 2002, is doing well in his rehabilitation after blowing out a knee last summer and will be ready for minicamp.

"Derrius has come around nicely," Spurrier said. "He's got some excellent hands. When the ball hits, he usually hangs on. He makes some nice catches in traffic. It seems like everybody has to do that in this league. You just don't get as open as [in college].

"We've talked about trying to find one real fast guy, maybe a 4.3-type guy [like Russell. But] our top three receivers — Derrius, Rod and Darnerien — have a lot of ability."

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Those last 4 game #'s are very impressive for Thompson. While it's fun to talk about Price and Boston, the team may not need to invest that kind of cash in another WR. Spurrier wants to get a speed guy, but it doesn't have to be a #1 WR type guy. Obviously Russell is an option, but I don't know that we can count on him being as fast as he used to be in the 2003 season. There will be some fast recievers available in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft that might serve our purposes.

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Perhaps just a small part of the better WR production the past 2.5 games has been a NFL arm at the controls? :)

the Skins DO need a veteran presence, preferably one with speed to enhance the playmaking potential of the unit, but in the NFL you often don't get a lot of separation against the likes of Troy Vincent and Charles Woodson.

You need a qb that can thread the needle and Ramsey is the first qb we have had here that can really do that since Gibbs left.

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Keim weighs in on our receivers.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news/theinsiders/20021224/citadel-2_83863_71.html

Redskins wideouts produce

Redskins to upgrade receiver position.

John Keim - WarpathInsiders.com

December 25, 2002 at 1:37am ET

When the season started, the Redskins appeared thin at receiver. And it's still an area they'll look to upgrade in the offseason. But it's not a bad situation. Not with Rod Gardner en route to a possible 70-catch season and Derrius Thompson one catch shy of 50 receptions after Sunday's 26-10 win over Houston

We talked to one AFC scout, who watched the Redskins in person at least a half-dozen times, who said both are ''No. 2 receivers'' but that's better than what people would have said several months ago. Back then, they viewed Gardner as a decent receiver and Thompson as a major question mark.

Now Gardner has shown he can make tough catches and have an occasional big game. His eight touchdown receptions rank third in the NFC--he has three more catches and four more touchdowns than Keyshawn Johnson .

Gardner makes big grabs in traffic and is outstanding at using his body to get open. Watch him extend his arms, making it tougher for defensive backs to reach around him and deflect the pass (which is what they do to Darnerien McCants ).

A few weeks ago Thompson feasted on receiver screens, building his stats but leaving questions around him. Not anymore. Now he's running all sorts of routes and he even beat Pro Bowl corner Aaron Glenn on Sunday.

Thompson, who has 24 receptions and three touchdowns in the past four games, is making catches indicative of someone with surging confidence. Like on his 13-yard touchdown grab, in which he ignored a defensive back lunging for the pass, reached high to grab it and scored untouched. Later in the game he made a leaping two-hand grab.

''He's making the catches that at one point I didn't think he could make,'' Gardner said. ''Derrius always had it in him, but he's a more confident player. He's proven he can play.''

The Redskins still need to add another receiver, preferably one with speed (we're not sold on injured Cliff Russell for obvious reasons and Darnerien McCants is still too raw. McCants lacks instincts, one Redskins wideout said and predicted he'd either be boom or bust because of it. And he's still not 100 percent certain where to go all the time. Hence all the receiver screens, allowing him to use his natural ability).

They need a threatening presence at wideout. But at least the situation looks better than it did a month ago. After this season, it's a positive start.

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I don't think we can urge enough restraint in blowing a huge wad on a WR either through the draft or FA. We need to show patcience and let these guys fully develop. Next year with Ramsey running the show we will have a much better idea of what these guys can accomplish. We should be investing our money and draft picks in our lines....not a position we have so much potential in.

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