Redskins get Coles, speed

The play occured in a game midway through the season and was meaningless. Except that it exposed everything that was wrong with Washington's wideouts. And their lack of speed.

On the play, Chris Doering raced across the middle, using the official in the middle of the field almost as a screen, freeing himself even more from the defensive back. It worked: Doering got open by a few yards and caught the ball. But the defensive back quickly recovered and tackled him for a short gain.

Those days, the Redskins hope, are over. With the official announcement that receiver Laveranues Coles has joined the team, Washington has added a necessary ingredient: speed.

It's not just Coles. The Redskins likely will sign Rocket Ismail any day--it could happen by Friday. Add Ismail and Coles to a group that also includes Patrick Johnson and Cliff Russell and the Redskins will have, if nothing else, a good relay team.

But Ismail and Coles have shown they're more than just speed. That is, if Ismail's healthy. Which is a big IF. The same can be said of Johnson.

For a moment, though, pretend that they are, or will be. And envision what the Redskins can do because of them.

''I'm looking pretty good now aren't I?'' Redskins receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., said.

Problem is, Russell is coming off a torn ACL and Johnson has been injury-plagued in his first four years. He missed seven games this past season with an abdominal injury. But Russell is about 95 percent recovered.

''I'm excited about what Cliff can do,'' Spurrier Jr., said. ''Patrick's only problem is that he's been injured so much. But if he can stay healthy he's an excellent player. He has a lot of similar qualities to Laveranues, but Laveranues is more polished.''

The extra speed means a lot. Rod Gardner is a nice receiver, but he's not a playmaker (though he is very sturdy). Having Coles opposite him will only help Gardner develop.

But imagine the above route to Doering in the future. In that game, he was a fourth receiver. Doering was tough, smart and I liked him, but he was limited and not a burner. This year, that fourth wideout, who will draw man coverage, could be Johnson. If he catches one of those underneath crossing routes, that five-yard gain by Doering would be a 15-20 yard one by Johnson.

A big-play passing game does not mean one in which the receivers race by DB's on deep routes. That's a low-percentage play. Rather, it comes from turning short gains into long ones. Which is something Washington couldn't do last year.

The Redskins' wideouts also got matched in single coverage for fly routes, too. But, unless it was Gardner running the route, the play often failed. There's a difference having Doering matched up one on one and Ismail, who would be the No. 3 receiver.

This is not to say everything will work perfectly. There's still the matter of meshing a unit with at least four new starters. And we're not sold on Trung Canidate being the complete answer (though it was a good trade).

But, because this is the time for optimism, there's also the natural maturation of quarterback Patrick Ramsey, now protected by an improved line. The extra speed at receiver means, in theory, they'll get open faster. Which means Ramsey doesn't have to hold the ball as long. And his best quality, waiting until the last minute to throw the ball, should result in bigger plays with this group.

Led, of course, by Coles.

''Anytime you can add a player to your organization who can bring so much on and off the field, you have to be excited,'' Redskins vice president of football operations Joe Mendes said. ''His work ethic, combined with his playing personality and his speed is a gigantic and welcomed addition.

''He'll be a big addition not just because he runs fast. You have to run fast and be productive and have the playing personality and he adds all those things.''

The Jets took a jab at Washington for overpaying Coles (who would have accepted a $10 million signing bonus rather than the $13 million the Redskins offered). But, as Mendes said, they weren't trying to just sign him. They were trying to make sure the Jets couldn't. And they didn't.

Besides, Washington knew how costly another season without true speed at receiver would be. The Redskins would only have to watch game film from last year.

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