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Gibbs Says Moss Is a 'Big-Play Guy'

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page D03

Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs grinned as Santana Moss handed him a yellow cap emblazoned with burgundy letters: "Got Moss!"

Gibbs and the Redskins got Moss from the New York Jets in exchange for Laveranues Coles and introduced him yesterday at a news conference at Redskins Park.

Coach Joe Gibbs makes certain the newest Redskin, Santana Moss, right, is well-received at his introduction during a news conference at Redskins Park. (Kevin Wolf -- AP)

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Although Gibbs towered over the 5-foot-9, 185-pound wide receiver, he was confident Moss would help produce the long passing plays the offense lacked last year.

"I think we've watched every play of his career," Gibbs said. "We became convinced he's a big-play guy."

Last season, Washington's wide receivers caught only six touchdown passes and averaged 11.5 yards per catch. Although Moss regressed last year with 45 catches for 838 yards after a breakout season in 2003, he did catch five touchdown passes and averaged 18.6 yards per catch.

"I don't like to talk about myself that much, but I have some pretty good wheels, you could say," Moss said. "I have a pretty good track record as far as my speed. When it comes down to it, I'm blessed with some God-given abilities."

Perhaps Moss's most impressive quality was his knack for making first downs. Moss turned 78 percent of his catches -- 35 of 45 -- into first downs. Fifty-two of Coles's career-high 90 catches last season went for first downs.

"They'll enjoy Santana. He's a great talent," Coles said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Maybe he'll bring something that they felt was missing in me. He's very explosive. I think that's what they were looking for."

The Jets reportedly were expected to make Moss a number three receiver next season because the organization felt he didn't fulfill his potential after being taken with the 16th pick overall in the 2001 draft. But Washington is so confident, sources said, that it will pay Moss an extension befitting a number one receiver. He is scheduled to earn $448,000 for the final year of his original deal, and the new contract won't be announced until June 1, sources said, because of salary cap reasons.

Unlike Coles, Moss said he wasn't concerned about Gibbs's conservative offense because of the number of passes (168 -- second most in the NFL) thrown Coles's way.

"He had like a hundred-and-something balls attempted to him," said Moss, whose presence makes Chad Morton's future as a punt returner uncertain. "I had 60-something balls. What's conservative?"

And in Moss, the team has a player who is happy to be here. Gibbs had told players last season that he would do his best to accommodate anyone who didn't want to be in Washington, and yesterday he was asked about problems that might present.

"I have a confidence that's not going to happen very often around here," said Gibbs, whose other starting wide receiver, Rod Gardner, remains on the trading block. "I think in our locker room and with our players, I have a good feel for them. It's a great group of guys."

Redskins Notes: Mark Brunell's agent, Leigh Steinberg, confirmed the quarterback has restructured his contract to save Washington $1 million under the cap. Steinberg said Brunell, who was scheduled to earn $2 million this season, shifted about half of the money into unlikely-to-be-earned incentives. That category -- in contrast to likely-to-be-earned incentives -- doesn't count against the cap. But Washington must improve in only one of eight offensive categories for Brunell to get his full pay.

"We hope he eventually is the starting quarterback again," Steinberg said. "And it's in Mark's best interest to have the strongest possible roster. When someone like [owner] Dan Snyder needs in essence a favor, if Mark can accommodate, he will." . . .

Despite speculation Darnerien McCants will be released, Gibbs said that the 6-3, 214-pound wide receiver will return.

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