By Ben Standig
Yesterday, Rich Tandler touched on the big plays expected out of high priced free agent Pierre Garcon. The other notable receiver signee, Josh Morgan, is not 100%, but has time to heal before camp. Same goes for 6-foot-3 Leonard Hankerson, who spent Thursday's OTA doing individual drills on the side as the team takes a cautious approach with the rising second-year target even though his injured hip has healed.
Earlier this spring, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan rattled off the names of those three when asked about his top receivers. Obviously missing from that pass catching hierarchy, Santana Moss, who turned 33 on Friday.
With football age not on his side and a $2.65 million cap number attached to him, that kind of omission from the guy ultimately responsible for putting together the roster figures to make Moss' spot one to watch this summer.
That is why it also worth noting what Shanahan said about Moss' slimmed down look this offseason.
“It’s the best I’ve seen him since I’ve been here," Shanahan said following Thursday's OTA. "The first year that he came, he didn’t practice. The second year we had the lockout and he got injured. But he’s come in in excellent shape, and you can tell he’s ready to play because of the type of shape he’s come in.
"I’m just hoping he stays at that level that he’s at right now.”
When I heard the quote live, it sounded almost like the coach-speak equivalent of a bed of roses. When I went back and read the transcript, that last line's context adds a thorny element - and it was said on a day when Shanahan was hardly prickly.
It also came on a day Moss was playfully heckled by defensive back coach Raheem Morris after the receiver skillfully beat Morris's secondary to the corner of the end zone and hauled in a pinpoint pass from Robert Griffin III.
Garcon is transitioning into being a number one receiver (if such a thing exists in the modern NFL, but at least we can say with certainty he is being paid like one.). Both he and Morgan are new to the Redskins' system. Hankerson has started only two more NFL games than his new starting rookie quarterback.
The experience Moss offers could indeed be his trump card.
"We have a leader in Santana Moss," Garcon said. "You know, he’s been here for a while."
When it comes to Moss' future, it may simply be a numbers game, financially and roster-based. If Moss shows enough spring in his shifty step over the summer, he may eventually warrant a place at or near the top of Shanahan's depth chart.
Then again, Shanahan has been grooming Hankerson and loves his new receiving toys.
“Well, you can see [Pierre] Garçon, you know, he’s a big time receiver," Shanahan said. "You can see his power, his strength, his quickness, his speed since he’s been here. It’s very, very obvious.
"And Josh is very talented. He hasn’t practiced full speed all the time, but he will be ready to go by the time we get to camp, once that ankle heals up and he has practiced enough to tell everybody on this football team that he’s one heck of a receiver and he’s going to help us this year.”
Plenty more weeks of reading the receiving depth chart tea leaves left to go.