Is There A New Posse Forming?

Receiver Laveranues Coles was supposed to be the perfect complement to Rod Gardner, a speedy wideout matched with a sturdy one. Turns out Coles does more than just help Gardner. He pushes him, too.

And that's one thing that has the Redskins excited about their top two receivers. Gardner, coming off a 1,000-yard season, bemoaned last year that he didn't have a mentor as a receiver. In his rookie year, he was paired with Michael Westbrook. Last year Gardner entered as the top wideout.

But it's not Coles' talent that is helping most. It's his desire.

''This is the first time in his life that Rod has ever been around a guy who works as hard as Laveranues,'' Redskins receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., said. ''Rod has always been the best player and was the guy who set the pace. Now someone else sets it. It's not only talent, but money. This guy makes more money than me. Why? That's why. Rod sees that.''

It's not just a natural maturation by Gardner, either. Not in Spurrier Jr.'s eyes--he says the difference in Gardner is because of more than just having played another year in the league.

''Rod is a much better player,'' Spurrier Jr., said. ''He's working harder, running harder, trying harder, taking more notes, paying better attention. It's a big increase over last year. You need to be around a guy all the time who lets you know how it's done.''

Gardner agrees. And he's well aware of how Coles' contract, hoping that someday he can match that bonus.

''It makes you open your eyes to see what you need to do to get where you want to go,'' Gardner said. ''I see that Laveranues is a hard worker and him working hard makes me want to work hard. It makes me work harder than I might have before. It gives you the opportunity to say if you go out there and handle your business, you get praise for it and you get a really big bonus. Once my time comes around again, hopefully I'll get that 13-14 million dollar contract.''

But Coles is reluctant to take any credit for pushing Gardner.

''Rod was a tremendous player before I got here,'' Coles said. ''He had a 1,000-yard season last year before I got here. For me it's like a pressure reliever from him always getting attention because he was the main guy. Now with me and him and Taylor on the field, you've got to pick your poison.''

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