Redskins' Moss Is Hungry to Get Cooking Again

Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss has been limited to just two catches for 22 yards in the past two games.
Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss has been limited to just two catches for 22 yards in the past two games. "I'm going to keep working," Moss said. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 19, 2008

In a joyous locker room late one evening last month at Texas Stadium, Santana Moss sifted through compliments and congratulations. The Washington Redskins had beaten the Dallas Cowboys that day, an upset that instantly transformed perceptions of the team and what it could do. Moss was a primary reason why, bursting into vast meadows of open turf, catching eight balls, gaining 145 yards, looking every bit the elite wide receiver he believes himself to be.

Yet in the midst of the euphoria and the explanations for how it came about, Moss -- 29 years old and in his eighth NFL season -- quickly offered some caution.

"It's great and all," he said. "I'll enjoy it, because we won, and that's what counts. And I know it won't always be like this."

Just three weeks later, the explosive start to Moss's season -- 27 catches and 421 yards in the first four games -- has petered out. Two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Moss went without a reception for just the second time in his past 85 regular season games. Last week in a loss to St. Louis, he caught a pair of passes and dropped two more. Coming into today's game against the Cleveland Browns, he has accounted for 22 yards in two games. Defenses have all but taken him away.

"You kind of [get] frustrated at times, just wanting the ball," Moss said last week. "But my big goal, my main focus, is to win the game and be able to be an asset to the team no matter how it is. If I got to block more, I'm going to block more. It's one big circle. It's going to be a chance for me to get off again."

The variations in Moss's production are perhaps the best indication of the nature of Coach Jim Zorn's offense, a West Coast system that places significant pressure on quarterback Jason Campbell to go through a series of reads and take the first open choice, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey. According to wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, Moss was the first option on a dozen plays last week against St. Louis, yet circumstances dictated that Campbell threw his way just four times.

It is a strange dynamic, then, that Zorn can say the day Campbell barely used Moss, his most explosive wide receiver, was the day the quarterback had his best game in terms of using what was there for him, making the right choice.

"When we read, and he's not there, why force it to him?" Zorn said. "Somebody else is going to be there. That's kind of the philosophical difference. Instead of trying to force-feed something, and all week long you go through all these intricate things to try to free him, and he has five catches for 45 yards."

Zorn shrugged and held out his hands as if to say, "Big deal." The implication is clear: Zorn will not adjust his offense for one player.

"I'm not going to revamp what we're doing," Zorn said. "Things will come around."

It would be easier, though, if Campbell had just one more option, another reliable place to turn when two defenders focus on Moss.

"That'd be great," Moss said. "But even if it doesn't happen, I'm going to keep working."

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