Redskins wideouts produce

When the season started, the Redskins appeared thin at receiver. And it's still an area they'll look to upgrade in the offseason. But it's not a bad situation. Not with Rod Gardner en route to a possible 70-catch season and Derrius Thompson one catch shy of 50 receptions after Sunday's 26-10 win over Houston

We talked to one AFC scout, who watched the Redskins in person at least a half-dozen times, who said both are ''No. 2 receivers'' but that's better than what people would have said several months ago. Back then, they viewed Gardner as a decent receiver and Thompson as a major question mark.

Now Gardner has shown he can make tough catches and have an occasional big game. His eight touchdown receptions rank third in the NFC--he has three more catches and four more touchdowns than Keyshawn Johnson.

Gardner makes big grabs in traffic and is outstanding at using his body to get open. Watch him extend his arms, making it tougher for defensive backs to reach around him and deflect the pass (which is what they do to Darnerien McCants).

A few weeks ago Thompson feasted on receiver screens, building his stats but leaving questions around him. Not anymore. Now he's running all sorts of routes and he even beat Pro Bowl corner Aaron Glenn on Sunday.

Thompson, who has 24 receptions and three touchdowns in the past four games, is making catches indicative of someone with surging confidence. Like on his 13-yard touchdown grab, in which he ignored a defensive back lunging for the pass, reached high to grab it and scored untouched. Later in the game he made a leaping two-hand grab.

''He's making the catches that at one point I didn't think he could make,'' Gardner said. ''Derrius always had it in him, but he's a more confident player. He's proven he can play.''

The Redskins still need to add another receiver, preferably one with speed (we're not sold on injured Cliff Russell for obvious reasons and Darnerien McCants is still too raw. McCants lacks instincts, one Redskins wideout said and predicted he'd either be boom or bust because of it. And he's still not 100 percent certain where to go all the time. Hence all the receiver screens, allowing him to use his natural ability).

They need a threatening presence at wideout. But at least the situation looks better than it did a month ago. After this season, it's a positive start.

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