By any standard, Chris Cooley had a solid rookie season for the Redskins at H-back. He finished 2004 with 37 catches for 314 yards and a team-leading six TDs.
The most important thing about Cooley's first year in the NFL came not from those statistics but from something Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs said about Cooley at the season's close.
Gibbs said the team needed to find ways to get Cooley even more involved in the offense in 2005. Such statements can more accurately describe the Utah State product's potential at the NFL level.
Those who perhaps were waiting for Cooley to encounter one of the biggest pitfalls in sports--the bewildering "sophomore jinx"--still are waiting. The 6-3, 265-pound Cooley's second NFL season has outdone his first by a long shot.
Through the first 12 games of 2005, Cooley totaled 54 catches for 629 yards and three touchdowns.
Cooley's 54 catches would set a single-season team record for receptions by an H-back--if that record were actually tracked, of course. It's not. The Redskins have only really had an H-back position during Joe Gibbs' two coaching stints.
Cooley's receptions total also puts him in the neighborhood of challenging the team's single-season record for catches by a tight end. Redskins great Jerry Smith, who played from 1965-77, has the record with 67 catches in 1967.
Problem is, as an H-back, Cooley shifts between tight end and fullback. He also occasionally lines up at wide receiver.
On the Pro Bowl ballot, Cooley is listed as a fullback--and to his credit, he is leading the vote-getter at the position on fan ballots. But his position coach is Rennie Simmons, who coaches the tight ends. So it's hard to say whether Cooley would legitimately hold the team record for tight ends if he surpasses Smith's mark.
What does Cooley think?
"I consider myself a tight end mostly," he said. "I line up on the ball a lot of times. I'm more of a receiver than I am a fullback because I'm in the slot more than in the backfield. So who knows?"
In last Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, Cooley may have had his best game as a pro. His pass catching, blocking and overall hustle helped the Redskins stay in the playoff chase.
Cooley had five catches for 58 yards and his four-yard TD catch, not an easy one, put the game out of reach with 5:50 to go.
What really stood out for Cooley in the St. Louis game, though, was his ability to made sure catches and then break tackles and fight for yards after the catch, a real sign of talent for any NFL receiver.
"I've been consistent in our offense," Cooley said. "I feel like I'm averaging about five catches for 60 yards every week. I'm catching a lot of balls in the flat. That's the play I've been worked at lately."
With his steady effort at St. Louis, Cooley continued to give every indication that he's poised for a solid stretch run.