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Randle El: All-Around Threat Is Ready to Go

He runs. He throws. He catches passes. He returns kicks. He even has a fresh Super Bowl ring that was earned this past January.




So what's not to like about Antwaan Randle El?

The answer is not much when talking about the Redskins' new wide receiver and returner specialist. In fact, several NFL teams spent the offseason trying to find their own Antwaan Randle El from the NFL Draft.

The Redskins just went ahead and signed the original.

During an offseason in which the Redskins picked up free agents that filled their various needs, the most significant acquisition may turn out to be Randle El, a player they've long coveted.

Just barely a month after Randle El threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward, which helped cinch a Super Bowl XL title for the Steelers, the Redskins signed him to add talent in the offense and on special teams.

Although Randle El had become a big part of the Steeler offense in four years, the former Indiana quarterback is truly excited to join the burgundy and gold.

"I feel welcome here--that's the biggest thing," he said. "They really made me feel like I was number one on the list when they signed me. It was all about the approach and the Redskins made that first step into the door."

The need at wide receiver became glaring in 2005 when No. 2 wide receiver David Patten was lost after nine games with a knee injury.

For the remainder of last season, the Redskins used H-back Chris Cooley as, essentially, a No. 2 receiving threat when top receiver Santana Moss was blanketed with coverages.

The additions of Randle El and Brandon Lloyd should give Moss more room in which to work this season.

"It is going to be fun to have guys that I can feed off of," Moss said. "But I have never been the guy who worried about getting all of those opportunities. I have just been the guy who worried about how many chances I can get. Now we have some other weapons that can be real productive on this team, so it will be fun feeding off of each other.

"I know whatever little thing they do, I am trying to go back out there and do the same or something better."

As NFL fans are well aware, Randle El's value goes way beyond his ability to catch passes.

In his four years in the Steel City, he returned 168 punts, averaging 9.5 yards per return. He returned four for touchdowns.

Kickoff returns have been in Randle-El's arsenal as well; he returned 78 kicks for an average of 22.3 yards.

With those caliber of numbers, he may have an opportunity to do for Redskins special teams the type of things associated in years past with dangerous return man Brian Mitchell.

Asked about comparisons to Mitchell, Randle El said: "I have to get there. He played for a while and has done a whole lot of things, so I can't put myself there just yet. I have the opportunity to get there someday."

It remains to be seen just how the Redskins will employ Randle El's talents in their offense and on special teams but he certainly provides an intriguing option to say the very least.

At Indiana, playing under former Redskins' quarterback coach Cam Cameron, Randle El finished his career as the most productive dual-threat quarterback in NCAA history. He gained 11,384 total yards with 86 touchdowns.

Further, Randle El is the only Division I player in NCAA history to achieve 6,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing.

Although he could never lead the Hoosiers to a bowl game or even a winning record, Randle El restored some football excitement at a basketball school. In his senior season of 2001, he was named Big Ten Player of the Year and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

The former Hoosier has been able to translate his QB skills onto the NFL stage. He's 14-of-16 with two touchdowns during his career. That doesn't include his perfect pass to Ward in January's Super Bowl.

When Mitchell was a Redskin, he was used with successful results as a punt and kick returner. Along the way, he was converted into a third down running back and on one cold Philadelphia night a quarterback. That, of course, was in the infamous "Body Bags" game.

Mitchell's versatility proved to be quite inspirational to the Redskins. The team reached the playoffs in his first three years, highlighted by a Super Bowl XXVI championship win over Buffalo 37-24 in Minneapolis.

Over the course of his long NFL career, Brian Mitchell established his place as one of the top specialists the league has ever seen. Regarding his versatility, he gave the Redskins and later the Eagles and Giants so many options.

Heading into the 2006 campaign, the Redskins hope that Randle El can bring a similar blend of big-play capability and multi-dimensional productivity.

"I think he is a very special player," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "In the preseason, we did not do things specifically to get Antwaan the ball and have him do things that he is capable of doing. He sure does do it in practice, though."

Although Mitchell was an NFL running back by trade and Randle El is a wide receiver, the common denominator is this: What Mitchell could do, and Randle El can do, is beat you in so many ways.

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