For the moment, Darnerien McCants knows where he stands among the Redskins' revamped group of wide receivers--literally, above it.
At 6-3, McCants is the tallest receiver on the team's off-season roster, factoring in that head coach Joe Gibbs says he's "skeptical" that Rod Gardner, who is 6-2, will return to the team next season.
McCants could be the tallest receiver on the team in 2005 but certainly his place is yet to be defined. In his four years with the team, he's been cast in various roles, from being a key red-zone threat to languishing in a backup role.
This offseason, McCants is taking the position that his best days as a Redskin are yet to come.
"Right now, I'm the biggest target we have," McCants said Tuesday at Redskin Park. "Having a big target makes it a lot easier on the quarterback, definitely in the red zone area."
Following a breakthrough season in Steve Spurrier's offense in 2003, McCants re-signed with the Redskins with visions of picking up in 2004 where he left off. However, the Delaware State product was inactive for 10 games last season.
McCants, who does not play special teams, caught only five passes for 71 yards, with no touchdowns. A year earlier, he had six TD catches, which tied Laveranues Coles for the team lead.
Gibbs, acknowledging McCants' value as the team's tallest receiver, met with McCants during the offseason to discuss his role in 2004 and to set expectations for the upcoming season.
"Right now, the main concern is working with the coaches as far as my practice habits and study habits," McCants said. "I'll definitely work on what they've asked me to work on, and go from there. Hopefully, I'll be able to satisfy what they want to see."
Two years ago, McCants became one of the team's most reliable weapons in the red zone, with five of his six touchdowns coming on plays of six yards or less.
"Obviously, a big receiver brings certain things to the table, and Darnerien is a big guy," Gibbs has said. "He's been a playmaker in the red area. That's part of his package that he brings."
The Redskins added smaller, faster receivers to the roster this offseason in an attempt to boost the offense, which ranked 30th in the NFL last season. They traded Coles to the New York Jets in exchange for 5-10 speedster Santana Moss and signed 5-10 David Patten from New England. Holdovers Taylor Jacobs and James Thrash also are expected to be in the mix.
The team did not select a wide receiver in the 2005 draft and Gibbs has repeatedly said this offseason that he feels comfortable with the group the team now has.
"We've had Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders and Alvin Garrett, some very explosive smaller guys," Gibbs said. "What I've found in our receivers is that explosiveness and the ability to make things happen on the field has less to do with size."
McCants believes that his performance in 2003 proves that he can help the team score touchdowns. All he wants is the opportunity. He knows that starts by practicing and studying hard, traits that helped him score 18 TDs as a senior at Division 1-AA Delaware State as a tight end.
A native of suburban Gambrills, Md., McCants has been a fixture at the voluntary off-season workouts at Redskins Park. He says he's seen a level of camaraderie develop among the receivers. In particular, he points out, Patten has been a solid addition to the group.
"Dave definitely has a positive outlook," McCants said. "He's coming from a championship team. He's actually said to me that he won't let us fail this year. That's a positive step for this team, with him coming in as a new guy."
The Redskins hope to tweak their offense in order to open up their passing game and stretch the field. That may be easier with faster receivers such as Moss, Patten, Jacobs and Thrash.
Asked where he thinks he fits into that contingent, McCants said optimistically: "Wherever they need somebody to catch the ball, that's where I fit in."