By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 22, 2005
He has three NFL championship rings, has played in two Super Bowls -- even scored a touchdown in one -- and once piled up over 100 yards in an AFC playoff game. Yet on Friday night at FedEx Field, David Patten, 31, alumnus of the New England Patriots dynasty and one of the Washington Redskins' key offseason acquisitions, brimmed with nervous energy.
"I was telling the guys that I felt like a rookie all over again," Patten said. "It's just a whole new atmosphere. It seemed like in New England everything had become normal, because we're just expected to win. And this is a whole new challenge -- getting this team off on the right note -- and just to be a part of that is exciting."
Patten was making his debut in front of what are now his home fans, and the butterflies hardly diminished his play as he caught three passes for 109 yards in only a half of work, providing the first tangible evidence that indeed there are signs of life in Washington's deep passing game. Patten and fellow starting receiver Santana Moss were brought in for their speed and game-breaking ability, and are expected to ignite the league's 30th-ranked offense. But while the unit remains under intense scrutiny -- with Coach Joe Gibbs and starting quarterback Patrick Ramsey firmly atop that list -- Patten has something positive to take out of the opening three weeks of training camp.
Washington's lengthy quest for plays of 20 yards or more led to Patten becoming a favorite target of Ramsey's, as he hauled in passes of 46, 33 and 30 yards; no Redskins receiver had more than three receptions of 30 or more yards through the entire 2004 season. The Redskins completed only nine passes of that length over 16 games (514 passing attempts).
Ramsey is still getting familiar with his new receiver, but appears to trust Patten. He has looked to the veteran on third and long throughout the preseason, and, after Friday's connections, figures to continue calling on him in all situations.
"We read things alike," Ramsey said, "and I think that's the reason we were able to get things done on a few drives."
"Hopefully, that's the start of good things to come," Patten said. "I expect to have my best performances here in Washington. I feel like they're going to give me an opportunity to go out there and be a difference maker, and that's a step in the right direction."
Patten, who was signed by the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 1997 after spending 1996 in the Arena Football League, was more of a complementary player for the Patriots, a team of seemingly interchangeable parts. He started 11 games in last season's Super Bowl run, catching just 44 balls, but with a 18.2-yard average per catch -- the kind of downfield action Gibbs is so desperate for. Where the Patriots saw an older, smaller receiver who could be replaced, the Redskins see a savvy player with outstanding team-building skills who could thrive in a more prominent role.
He has a wealth of postseason knowledge, and a mastery of the subtle tricks only learned over time by tending daily to his craft.
"What David is, is a very, very good route runner," Gibbs said. "He's showed that he's got patience. He's got really good hints, which normally means you're a real good route runner, when you can go in there and just have a natural way of selling something. All it is is a little hint, but you see the defender take a big bite off of it. He's got real good instincts that way, and he's been around a long time and is just one of the hardest-working, high-quality guys you want to be around."
Patten also is a valuable resource for players and coaches alike. Gibbs, a Hall of Fame coach with three Super Bowl wins, routinely asks him about how the Patriots -- winners of three of the last four Super Bowls -- operate, with questions about practice drills, training camp or anything else that comes up. "He's very good about that," Gibbs said. "He's very sharp."
Patten is always willing to share, but hopes to be a bigger part of something special here.
"It kind of gets old, because you don't just want to be remembered for your past," Patten said. "You want to be remembered for what you're doing right now. All of that was good, and I appreciate everything I experienced there, but it's about here and now. What are the Redskins going to do? And when you experience that kind of success, everybody wants to know what you did to get there. Hopefully, I can bring and illustrate those positives, and we can build upon that."
Redskins Notes: Despite fumbling in the final drive of Friday's defeat, rookie running back Nehemiah Broughton continues to get rave reviews. Broughton, a seventh-round pick out of the Citadel, has been a revelation with both his hands and his feet.
The hefty back -- 5 feet 11, 255 pounds -- has grinded out several nice runs, and, to the surprise of the staff, has been an excellent target for veteran quarterback Mark Brunell. The Redskins did not expect Broughton to be such an adept receiver, and used their final draft pick on the player at the urging of running backs coach Earnest Byner, who was wowed by Broughton during a pre-draft workout. "Earnest deserves all the credit on that," Gibbs said. "He kind of stood on the table for him."
Broughton has 14 carries for 51 yards and two touchdowns in two preseason games -- he could be the answer to the team's short-yardage woes -- and has caught six passes for 60 yards, including two receptions of 15 yards or longer. . . .
The players were given yesterday off and return to practice today. They are expected to have single sessions Tuesday and Wednesday as well, will likely conduct just a walk-through and meetings Thursday and face Pittsburgh at FedEx Field on Friday in the final home preseason game.