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A Need For Speed? Moss Has It

In a matter of a few weeks, the Redskins appear to be on the verge of giving their wide receivers corps a dramatic makeover, particularly at the top.

Both of last year's starters are on the trading block: Rod Gardner has been granted permission to seek a trade and Laveranues Coles is expected to be traded to the New York Jets for speedster Santana Moss.

The Jets and Redskins have agreed to the terms of the Coles-Moss trade, but it is not expected to be official until later this week. The deal is pending both players undergoing physicals. Moss's physical was expected to be Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning at Redskins Park. Coles's physical was slated for either Tuesday or Wednesday in New York.

If the trade is finalized, Moss would be the second wide receiver to join the Redskins within a week.

First, head coach Joe Gibbs brought in David Patten, signed to a contract last Friday. Patten, who turns 31 in August, brings solid speed and route-running, not to mention the experience of having played in--and won--three of the last four Super Bowls.

Patten joins wide receivers James Thrash, Taylor Jacobs and Darnerien McCants on the Redskins' roster. Patten and Thrash are relatively similar while Jacobs is a young, hard-working receiver hoping to make his mark.

McCants was a question mark for head coach Joe Gibbs last season. Standing at 6-3 and 214 pounds, McCants becomes the tallest receiver on the team and as such could have enhanced value heading into next season.

Moss, 25, adds another dimension of speed to the Redskins' offense. He is a true "home-run threat" every time he touches the football, whether it's on a deep pass or a run after the catch.
Moss has 19 touchdowns in 51 NFL games; meantime, Coles has 20 touchdowns in 77 NFL games.

Moss is also a solid kick returner; recall Moss's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at Pittsburgh last January.

At Carol City High School in Miami, Fla., Moss was a football and track star. In football, he led the team with 25 receptions for 600 yards (an amazing 24.0 average yards-per-catch) and 12 touchdowns. And in track, he was a two-time state champion in the triple jump.

At the University of Miami, he again starred in football and track. He won the 1999 Big East Indoor 60-meter championship and captured the triple jump and long jump at the 2000 Big East Conference Outdoor Track & Field championships.

His football exploits allowed him to become a sought-after draft prospect in 2001. As a receiver, he holds the Hurricanes' all-time record with 2,546 yards receiving, topping the old mark held by Michael Irvin.

Moss was selected by the Jets in the first round (16th overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft. He was selected one spot after the Redskins took wide receiver Rod Gardner.

Moss's NFL career got off to a difficult start: he suffered torn cartilage in his left knee during training camp, an injury that sidelined him for 11 games. His rookie year was essentially 2002, when he logged 30 catches for 433 yards and four touchdowns while serving as a third receiver behind Coles and Wayne Chrebet.

Interestingly, the careers of Coles and Moss are somewhat intertwined. With Coles departed to Washington in 2003, Moss proceeded to have a breakout season with the Jets, hauling in 74 catches for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns.

By midseason of 2003, Moss had started to come into his own. In a Week 8 game against the New York Giants, Moss set a career high with 10 catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns. A week later, he caught six passes for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown.

That season, Moss also set a Jets team record by catching at least one touchdown pass in six consecutive games. He was voted by his New York teammates as the Jets' MVP and was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl.

Last year, Moss struggled through a hamstring injury, limiting his playing time. He still managed to play in 15 games (14 starts), but his numbers dipped to 45 catches for 838 yards and five touchdowns. The Jets' offense spread the ball around to receivers like Justin McCareins and Chrebet.

More details of the pending trade will be released as this week progresses. If everything goes as expected, Gibbs, Moss and Coles will have their say in separate press conferences.

Will the Redskins pursue another wide receiver in the draft? Anything's possible, given the talent that could be available with the ninth overall pick in the draft.

But for now, one thing should be clear: The Redskins have certainly upgraded the speed of the wide receiver corps. That added dimension will likely change how defenses approach the Redskins' offense, which struggled in the downfield passing game last season.

Moss's blazing speed allows him to get a step on opposing cornerbacks, something that's essential in today's NFL as a result of tightened enforcement of the illegal contact penalty. It also opens up shorter passing routes because defenses will have to protect against the deep pass.

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