Team Hopes Moss Yields A Bigger (Punt) Return

The Washington Post's Jason Reid previews Sunday's game against Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals. Video by
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 20, 2008

With No. 2 wide receiver Antwaan Randle El struggling on punt returns, top wide receiver Santana Moss could have an increased role in the return game when the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals tomorrow at FedEx Field. "I'm done talking about the punt returns," Randle El said. "We've been talking about that a whole lot."

In his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Randle El twice averaged more than 10 yards on returns. He averaged 8.8 yards during his first season with the Redskins in 2006, and finished at 6.1 yards last season. So far this season, Randle El is averaging 4.2 yards on five returns and has no gains of more than 10 yards. His fumble last week against the New Orleans Saints set up their first touchdown.

Moss led the AFC with a 16.5-yard average on punt returns in the 2002 season and has an 11.5-yard career average, "but I'm just a backup," he said. "Too much [has] been made about this whole thing.

"[Randle] El is our guy and he does a great job. Nothing really has changed. I'll just be there if they need me, but I'm a backup. That's it."

Having their top two wide receivers return punts is risky for the Redskins, especially considering Coach Jim Zorn's spread offense features many three- and four-receiver sets. Wideouts James Thrash and Malcolm Kelly are recovering from ankle injuries and rookie Devin Thomas has struggled running routes and learning the playbook.

"You got to do," Moss said, "what you got to do."

Thrash, Kelly Progress

Thrash and Kelly practiced again yesterday and expect to play tomorrow. Thrash was much more active in team drills than he was Thursday and Kelly also responded well to an increased workload. Although Zorn would say only he was "hopeful" the wideouts would be available against the Cardinals, Thrash and Kelly expressed confidence about their progress.

"No doubts about it," Thrash said. "I feel good."

Kelly, who made his pro debut against the Saints, also will "be ready for Sunday," he said. "I knew it was sprained, but just the progression I made from day to day, I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was Monday."

Thrash, who has been a fast healer during his career, wore a protective boot earlier in the week after suffering a high-ankle sprain. He moved well while running routes yesterday and did not appear to limp.

Kelly and Thrash are listed as questionable on the injury report.

M. Washington May Play

Strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington, who sat out Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury, was listed as questionable after practicing. "It feels pretty good, it feels better than last week, and I've been smart with it all week," Washington said. "I'm feeling pretty good about my chances [of playing], but I sill think we need to go out and test it. I still think it will be" a game-time decision. "We need to do some pregame stuff to make sure," Washington said, "but I'm feeling pretty positive about it." . . .

Special teams standout Khary Campbell, sidelined Sunday because of a bruised thigh, was listed as questionable. "I practiced every day this week," he said. "I'll play." . . .

Middle linebacker London Fletcher, excused from practice recently for personal reasons, is expected to play against the Cardinals, a team spokesman said. . . .

Safety Kareem Moore (hamstring) was listed as questionable. . . .

Cornerbacks Carlos Rogers (groin) and Fred Smoot (hip), fullback Mike Sellers (hamstring), defensive end Jason Taylor (knee) and linebacker H.B. Blades (knee) were listed as probable.

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