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Caldwell Emerges As a Reliable Target

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Reche Caldwell was unceremoniously released by New England last offseason, despite leading the Patriots in receptions in the 2006 season.

Now, as the Patriots pursue perfection against the New York Giants this Sunday, Caldwell is pursuing something meaningful with the Redskins.

With a win on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, Caldwell and the Redskins would earn a Wild Card playoff berth in the NFC.

Caldwell has become a reliable target for quarterback Todd Collins in the Redskins' stretch run, and he could be a key player in Sunday's game at FedExField.

In the Redskins' pivotal matchup against the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, Caldwell stepped up in the early going when both defenses were playing it close to the vest.

With Keenan McCardell sidelined with a calf injury, Caldwell was effective as a possession receiver for Collins. When the game was tight, Collins did not hesitate to look Caldwell's way.

On the Redskins' third possession, Caldwell responded with a pair of first-down catches, both on timing routes in which Collins threw the ball before Caldwell had made his break.

The second of those catches by Caldwell came just before Collins and Chris Cooley combined on the 33-yard touchdown that put Washington in front 9-0.

Caldwell finished the game with four catches for 33 yards.

Caldwell, the 6-0, 217-pound seventh-year player out of Florida, had begun this season without a job. He signed with the Redskins two days after the 16-13 season-opening win over Miami at FedExField.

Then, for about the first three-quarters of the season, Caldwell was inactive or played sparingly.

Playing behind Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, Brandon Lloyd, James Thrash and McCardell, Caldwell had to wait patiently for his turn.

"It's tough to sit out when you're used to playing on Sundays," he said earlier this season.

He got his first significant amount of playing time in his hometown of Tampa, and he produced. Caldwell caught five passes for 43 yards at Raymond James Stadium in the Redskins' tough 19-13 to the Bucs.

"I was happy to get out there and make a few plays," Caldwell said. "My whole family was at the game. Unfortunately, we weren't able to win."

A week later, versus Buffalo, he followed that up with a three-catch, 26-yard performance in the 17-16 loss to the Bills. For the season, he has 13 receptions for 107 yards.

It should come as no surprise that Caldwell contributed in a playoff-type atmosphere like he did Sunday night in Minnesota.

In the 2006 playoffs, playing for New England, Caldwell caught 16 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown.

His most significant play for the Patriots came on a 49-yard reception on a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter of divisional playoff game at San Diego. New England went on to win 24-21.

In 2006, Caldwell had an outstanding season. As the leading receiver in the Patriots' he caught 61 passes from quarterback Tom Brady for 760 yards and four touchdowns.

Caldwell was released by the Patriots after they signed Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth.

It always hurts to be released, but Caldwell is happy to be part of an organization playing meaningful games in late December.

On the home front, Caldwell said he is keeping a close eye on his brother Andre, who is a dominant player at Florida.

Andre Caldwell has put together a career in which he's become the all-time pass receiver leader at Florida with 162 catches. The Gators take on Michigan in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl.

You can bet Reche Caldwell will be watching.

"I have a great relationship with my brother," Reche said. "I talk to him at least once or twice a week, and not always about football. As glad as I am that he wound up with Florida, it was important for me to see him go to a school that's a good fit for him."

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