Friday, November 10, 2006
Cooley starts to find the end zone for Redskins
ASHBURN, Va. -- Other than the 22 points they've scored in
three straight games -- a feat unprecedented in NFL history -- the
Washington Redskins have started to show another sign of
consistency on offense: Chris Cooley is catching touchdown passes.
Cooley got into the end zone against Tennessee, Indianapolis and
Dallas, the first time in his career that he's scored in three
consecutive games. The third-year tight end is getting closer to
making the type of impact expected when the Redskins overhauled the
offense and moved him from H-back.
"If we don't get him involved on the game, we really
second-guess ourselves," coach Joe Gibbs said. "Because he's a
big part of what we do."
Cooley isn't exactly tearing up the league. He has 24 receptions
for 284 yards at midseason, well behind the pace that had him
catching 71 passes for 774 yards a year ago. Over the last three
games he has actually caught fewer passes (9) than in the previous
three (12). But new assistant coach Al Saunders -- as he is with all
of the offensive personnel -- is getting more of a sense of how best
to use a player many people had pegged for a Pro Bowl-type year.
"Of all the guys on offense, he's probably the most improved
player in terms of what he has brought into what we're trying to do
-- and that's route-running," said Saunders, who calls the plays.
"Last year, a lot of his success and a lot of his catches were
balls that were behind the line of scrimmage or very close to the
line, and what we've tried to do is expand his role in the passing
game and allow him to be a vertical receiver, and he's responded
"His ability and value is underestimated around the league,"
Saunders said. "As he grows in this offense, he'll get the
recognition he so rightly deserves."
Cooley was excited about his new role in training camp. He
envisioned making big downfield catches when defensive backs were
keying on receivers Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle
However, the offense has sputtered -- the passing offense is
ranked 21st in the league -- and the downfield game has been
nonexistent at times. Moss has carried a disproportionate share of
the load, and a backup running back -- Ladell Betts -- is second on
the team in receptions.
Cooley, though, thinks the offense is on the verge of finding
"We were close to having a huge game against Dallas," Cooley
said. "We missed a couple of opportunities. We were very close on
huge plays. I think we're coming along. I do feel like I'm becoming
a little bit more involved. I dropped a ball. I had another one
batted. I was close to having five catches for 100 yards."
Cooley's strength remains his toughness. He excels in breaking
tackles and piling up yards after a catch. He also bruised his
shoulder early against the Cowboys but stayed in the game.
"I think I just naturally have a high pain tolerance," said
Cooley, whose sore shoulder has him listed as probable on the
injury report. "Stuff doesn't bother me as much as maybe it would
other people. I just try to put it out of my mind every time I'm
out there. It's the only thing I can do. I'm not coming off the
Cooley made a juggling game-tying 18-yard touchdown catch in the
fourth quarter of the 22-19 win over the Cowboys. Moss missed that
game with a hamstring injury and his status is uncertain for
Sunday's game at Philadelphia, giving Cooley another good chance of
having his first big game of the season -- at least by his
"I had four catches and three catches in the last couple of
games, so it's not a big game for me," Cooley said. "We'll see