Overview: In Joe Gibbs' first year back, the passing offense could be best be described as horizontal. That's partly because it featured a lot of wide receiver screens and hitch patterns. Mostly however, it was horizontal as in prone, like a dead man. In an effort to breathe some life into the passing game and add a more vertical orientation to it, both starters at wide receiver will be replaced. The group coming into camp is large in number with a dozen receivers coming into camp but, truth be told, there is only one roster spot up for grabs with two real competitors. The rest are necessary for the variety of passing and special teams drills the team holds during camp and for those late-game preseason appearances where one of them might catch a meaningless game-winning touchdown pass from Jason Campbell.
Changes: Traded Laveranues Coles for Santana Moss, signed David Patten, Kevin Dyson, Nathan Black, and Jimmy Farris as veteran free agents, claimed Jamin Elliott off of waivers, signed Rich Parson and Steven Harris as undrafted free agents.
Depth Chart: Both of the starters will be new with the departure of Coles by trade and the pending firing, for lack of a better term, of Rod Gardner. Moss will start at one spot. The other is up for grabs with Patten seemingly holding an edge over third-year player Taylor Jacobs. Both Patten and Taylor should see a lot of playing time regardless of who is the starter. James Thrash's work ethic and outstanding special teams contributions guarantee him the fourth roster spot, leaving one spot up for grabs with the returning Darnerien McCants and Dyson the primary competitors for that slot.
Man to Man
Nathan Black (6-0, 190, Northwestern State, 2 NFL
seasons): Black hasn't taken the field in two years, spending 2003 on injured
reserve and 2004 unsigned. He did appear in five games for the Panthers in
2002. Black's chances of sticking are virtually nil.
Kevin Dyson (6-2, 212, Utah, 7 NFL seasons): He became famous in 1999 postseason by scoring one touchdown (on the Music City Miracle) and nearly scoring another (on the last play of the Super Bowl for Tennessee when the Rams tackled him a yard short of the tying score). Now, he's just trying to snag another NFL season or two. Dyson did play in the Super Bowl for the Panthers two years ago after having missed almost the entire regular season with an Achilles injury. That was his last NFL game as the Chargers cut him in camp last year and nobody picked him up. He's one of those veterans who has lost a step and will have to rely on his guile and knowledge of the game if he's going to make the team.
Jamin Elliott (5-9, 190, Delaware, 2 NFL seasons):
Elliott has shuffled on and off of rosters and practice squads the last two
seasons. Along the way, he did manage to pick up a Super Bowl ring by appearing
in one game for the 2003 champion Patriots.
Jimmy Farris (6-0, 200, Montana, 4 NFL seasons):
Farris also snagged a big ring by being associated with the Pats. He didn't even
have to get dirty as he was inactive for all three games of New England's 2001
run to the title. Since then, he's been on the field a lot more as a backup
receiver and special teams performer for Atlanta. It's the latter role that
will be watched closely as the coaches assess his chances of making the roster.
Steven Harris (5-11, 180, Arkansas, rookie): He was a
big-play receiver at Arkansas, averaging over 16 yards a catch last year. As
it's unlikely that he'll be able to do the big-play thing better than Moss and
Patten, he'll be taking his speed elsewhere before the regular season.
Taylor Jacobs (6-0, 198, Florida, 2 NFL seasons): He
has the tools and if he learns how to use them he will blossom into a very good
player, if not a star. An injury-plagued rookie season cam first and a season
in a horrible passing attack followed, so it's not like Jacobs has had much of
a chance to show his wares. That will change this year as Jacobs will get
considerable playing time in a passing attack that should be improved.
Darnerien McCants (6-3, 214, Delaware State, 4 NFL seasons): Wow, that Gibbs will turn on you in a hurry. Earlier last year, McCants was a valued commodity, one that was given a multi-year deal so that he wouldn't hit the restricted free agent market. A few months later, he was watching most of the regular-season games in street clothes. It seems that Gibbs didn't like McCants' practice habits or his lack of participation on special teams. Both will have to change if McCants is going to make the roster.
Santana Moss (5-10, 185, Miami, 4 NFL seasons):
Having been traded for Coles, with the team absorbing a huge cap hit in the
process, Moss will spend so much time under a microscope this season that he'll
feel like lying around in a petri dish when he goes home. How well he responds
to the scrutiny will go a long way towards determining how much the offense
improves over last year.
Rich Parson (5-10, 183, Maryland, rookie): At
Maryland he returned punts and kickoffs so fielding kicks and racing a few
steps during camp practices is likely to be his primary role.
David Patten (5-10, 190, Western Carolina, 9 NFL seasons): Most coaches will tell you that an ideal player is one who has been a champion but still feels like he has something to prove. That description fits Patten to a tee. He has a trio of Super Bowl rings earned with the Patriots but he also seems to believe that he hasn't got the credit he deserves for his role in those championship runs. The best way to get the credit is to go out and help another downtrodden team go all the way. That's what his goal is.
Go here to listen
to Patten's Q&A at minicamp
James Thrash (6-0, 200, Missouri Southern, 8 NFL seasons): When the Eagles landed Terrell Owens last year, they were looking for a place to dump Thrash and Gibbs and the Redskins gladly took him off their hands. Thrash possess every attribute you want in a wide receiver; he has a great work ethic, runs precise routes and will do anything the coaches ask him to. Well, truth be told, he does lack a couple of little things like great size and speed, which is why he will spend most of his time doing a wide variety of other chores on the field, from kick coverage to punt returns and anything else that might need to be done.Man to Man