Redskins coach Joe Gibbs has been adamant that he wants his offense to be more explosive than last season, one consistently able to complete long passes, move the chains and keep defenses honest.
Can the newly acquired Santana Moss fuel such a wide-open attack?
The speedy receiver emitted strong signals of being that man in last Friday's 17-10 preseason win over the Steelers at FedExField. He caught only two passes for 68 yards, but both receptions were gorgeous.
On the first one, quarterback Patrick Ramsey hit Moss for a short completion near the sideline in front of cornerback Willie Williams. But he spun away from Williams--a move not often seen last season from the Redskins' wideouts--streaked down the sideline and zig-zagged through defenders before going down at the Steelers' 19 for a 40-yard gain.
The play set up John Hall's 28-yard field goal that cut Pittsburgh's lead to 7-3 late in the first quarter.
In the second period, Moss gained separation on a sideline route and when Ramsey's pass was underthrown, he came back and leaped between defenders Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu for a 28-yard reception. Moss was open on two other deep routes, but Ramsey misfired both times.
After the game, Moss made no guarantees of what he can achieve, except to say he's going to give "150 percent" each time he steps on the field.
"I'm never going to be that guy to talk," he said. "I say I go out there and put it on the field, and you tell me what I've done. I'm going to lay it on the line in practice, so when I get out there in the game, it comes naturally. I'm a hard-working guy who goes out there and tries to take care of my business every time I get a chance."
But Moss acknowledged that the offense has the potential to realize the explosiveness desired by Gibbs.
"I'm not going to say we can 'do this or do that' before we do it," the fifth-year receiver said. "We have a lot of talent and as long as we use it right, we should be really powerful. We have the guys, so let's go out there and work and put it together. Last year, (the Redskins) had a lot of talent, too. But there were a lot of different things that went on like a quarterback switch."
Moss' electrifying ability led the Redskins to acquire him in a trade with the Jets last March for fellow receiver Laveranues Coles. Moss was slowed by a hamstring injury last year, but he proved in the playoffs to be one of the league's fastest and most dangerous players.
He had four receptions for a team-high 100 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown catch, in the Jets' 20-17 overtime win at San Diego. The next week at Pittsburgh, he returned a punt 75 yards for a score in the Steelers' 20-17 win in overtime.
Moss has 151 catches for 2,416 yards and 19 touchdowns over four seasons, with 2003 being his best year statistically: 74 receptions, 1,105 yards, 10 touchdowns. He has also returned two punts for scores, both in the 2002 season.
"Here's what jumps out at you on film," Gibbs said the day Moss was officially introduced as a Redskin. "When Santana hits the ground with the ball, he's extremely quick and elusive. "We went back to the 2003 film, and we even went all the way back through his entire career.
"We watched every catch and every play he's made in the NFL. We became convinced that he's a big-play guy. Last year we struggled with big plays, and I think Santana will bring that to our team."
To make a consistent impact on the field, Moss must develop a rapport with Ramsey. The quarterback has struggled at times this preseason but has also looked sharp, like when he hit Moss and receiver David Patten, another newcomer, for lengthy receptions.
"We're picking it up," Moss said of his connection with Ramsey. "Week after week after week, we just get better and better and better. It's nothing that's going to happen overnight. We'll take our time, grow with each other. If you go out there and practice the way we practice every week, then no doubt we're going to do big things come Sunday."
In Ramsey's opinion, it is imperative that the two gain a strong feel for one another by opening day against the Bears on Sept. 11.
"We need to try to be ready so we can be in full stride by the beginning of the season," Ramsey said.