Chris Cooley's four-yard TD catch in Friday night's 17-10 pre-season win over Pittsburgh at FedExField may be a sign of things to come.
As a rookie, Cooley produced 37 catches for 314 yards and a team-high six TDs. His finest game came against those same Steelers at Heinz Field on Week 12. The 6-3, 265-pound H-Back totaled seven catches, one of which was a two-yard TD. That was all the scoring the Redskins could mount in a 16-7 loss to the team that wound up with the NFL's top-ranked defense.
Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that Cooley has a really productive season in 2005. He still may run the risk of getting overlooked in a division that includes Jason Witten of Dallas and Jeremy Shockey of the Giants. In the conference, there's always Alge Crumpler of the Falcons to contend with.
Plus, Cooley is--technically--an H-Back. So he may not stand out, in a national sense, when fans look to choose their top player at tight end.
In the Week 3 pre-season game, Ramsey and company were struggling early on. Santana Moss and Cooley's brilliant catch seemed to turn things around.
The Redskins were trailing 10-3 with :31 seconds left in the half when Ramsey looked Cooley's way on a first-and-goal sequence from the Pittsburgh 4. The second-year player out of Utah State outfought Steelers free safety Chris Hope, a big hitter who was one of the keys to Pittsburgh's defensive prowess a year ago.
In any event, look for more big plays from Chris Cooley in 2005. His catch versus the Steelers, albeit just in a pre-season matchup, called to mind the catch Shockey made versus Philadelphia's hard-hitting Pro Bowl safety, Brian Dawkins, in 2002.
That Cooley was once an All-American wrestler (in high school in Logan, Utah) no doubt aided his cause in taking on the Steelers' Hope. Those same skills will help Cooley throughout his NFL career.
Cooley was casual in describing the play, saying: "Patrick threw it up there. Both the safety [Hope] and I know what's going on. I just went up there and got it."
Reflecting back on Cooley's rookie season, head coach Joe Gibbs said he came to realize that the offensive scheme should involve Cooley to a greater degree.
"If you get the ball to Chris," said Gibbs, "he runs well after the catch. We probably should do a better job of getting more balls to him."
That latter point gains all the more credibility, when you factor in Cooley's Friday night grab versus the Steelers in the nationally-televised matchup.