Moss, Samuels Named to Pro Bowl

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By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 2005

Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss was named to his first Pro Bowl yesterday, and was joined by tackle Chris Samuels, but the Redskins' defense was largely overlooked for the second straight season in the voting, which is split among players, coaches and fans.

Running back Clinton Portis and H-back Chris Cooley were named first alternates and linebacker Marcus Washington and safety Sean Taylor were named second alternates. H-back Mike Sellers, guard Randy Thomas, cornerback Shawn Springs and tackle Cornelius Griffin missed out completely.

The Redskins increased their Pro Bowl total from last season, when only Washington made the squad, but the defense, which has carried the team for much of the past two seasons, had no players named. While Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, has built a unit composed largely of workmanlike players, it has had two strong seasons and is ranked eighth in the NFL this season. This year's snubs have reinforced the group's mantra of being largely unrecognized despite its achievements.

"Obviously, we're extremely disappointed," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "I don't really quite understand all of the process that takes place and everything, but we felt like we had players who deserve to be on there and they weren't, and we told the players that."

Moss was the Redskins' primary offseason acquisition, coming to Washington in a trade that sent wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets. Moss posted 100-yard games regularly in the first six weeks of the season and is tied for third in the NFL in receiving yards (1,240). Moss, 26, has helped energize the downfield attack and could break the franchise record for receiving yards.

"It's an honor, but something I didn't really consider striving for," Moss said of the Pro Bowl. "It's a blessing just to be on it."

Gibbs said of Moss's first season in Washington, "I don't think we could have drawn it up for him to have that big of a year."

Samuels, 28, was re-signed to one of the biggest contracts in franchise history this past offseason, and has received glowing praise from Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense, since this staff took over before 2004. Samuels has played through injury and will require offseason arthroscopic surgery, saying he woke up five times the other night because of pain in his right knee. He is often left in isolation in pass protection and has the size and athletic ability to get downfield in run blocking as well, but many believed Thomas has been the club's best offensive lineman this season, although he lacks Samuels's name recognition.

Samuels made the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002, but admits his confidence slipped in 2003. He credits Bugel for forcing him to utilize better hand positioning and breaking his bad habit of dropping his head in pass protection, with his improved fundamentals paying off.

"Joe Buges, that's the number one person I've got to give the credit to," Samuels said. "That guy, he has tremendously helped me out and he's put me back on point in my game. My technique is sound now."

Defensively, Washington has been a star again as the strong-side linebacker, although the Redskins' lack of sacks and turnovers much of the season seems to have worked against the players. Griffin, despite missing three games, has made a significant impact when in the lineup simply by his presence. Springs does not have the same sack and interception totals he did in 2004, but opponents have largely avoided throwing to his side of the field given his ability.

"I'm very surprised," defensive end Phillip Daniels said of the Pro Bowl voting. "I would have thought we would get at least two guys [on defense]. My picks would have been Marcus and maybe Shawn Springs and one more. Taylor had a shot. I don't know, really it's just a popularity contest. Every team I've been on it's like that."

Sellers has been solid as a lead blocker, has seven touchdowns and plays on all the special teams units but did not make the Pro Bowl team in any capacity. Taylor and Portis were alternates last season as well, while Cooley continues to emerge as a pass catcher in his second NFL season.

The Redskins' opponent Saturday, the New York Giants, had five players named to the team.


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