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News » Futility leaves Cooley seeing red

Futility leaves Cooley seeing red

Futility leaves Cooley seeing red
Tight end Chris Cooley normally is the most happy-go-lucky player on the Washington Redskins , a big kid at heart who's thrilled to make millions, go to Pro Bowls and host a popular Web site - all because of his skill at catching passes and his openness with fans.

But as the performance of the Redskins' offense has soured, so has Cooley.

Cooley hasn't talked as much as usual in the past two months except to offer comments short and to the point, including saying "the offense sucks," as the unit's ranking fell to among the worst in the league.

"It's frustrating because I feel like I've played pretty good, but when I watch the film of us in the red zone, something's always going wrong," Cooley said. "Like last week on the play before we kicked the field goal, I ran a route inside and beat my guy in man coverage, but Jason [Campbell] was getting sacked before I came out of my break."

The numbers bear out Cooley's perception of his own performance. The tight end is on pace for a career-high 82 receptions. Only nine players in the league have caught more passes than Cooley's 67.

But the numbers also reveal the substance of Cooley's frustration. He's scored only one touchdown this season - andthat came in Week 5, not from his quarterback but on an option pass from receiver Antwaan Randle El.

The lone touchdown is far off Cooley's career average of seven per season, and it marks a big drop from the eight he notched last season.

The disparity between the number of receptions and touchdowns also is unusual by NFL standards: Of the 37 players with more than 50 receptions this season, Cooley is one of only two to score just one touchdown.

Part of the difficulty is the problems on the offensive line.

The line, for example, struggled to protect Campbell against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night even before starting tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen left the game with injuries.

Cooley wound up staying in to block on 18 snaps, which in large part explains how he wound up with just one catch for 12 yards.

That was a relief for Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who came to appreciate Cooley as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles during the tight end's first four seasons.

"I've seen Cooley catch more passes, convert more third downs and just drive you crazy," Harbaugh said.

Cooley ranks second in the league among tight ends in catches this season and third in yards. But the lack of success in the red zone is driving him crazy.

"I'm excited that I've caught 67 balls," Cooley said. "What is a surprise to me is that this offense hasn't scored more touchdowns. To complain that I'm not scoring any touchdowns would be irrelevant because everyone can complain about that except Clinton [Portis] and Santana [Moss]. For the most part, the explanation is that our offense has not been efficient inside the 25-yard line, especially in the passing part of it."

The Redskins are on pace to score 22 red-zone touchdowns this season, compared with 27 last season. The run-pass balance (14 running, 13 passing red-zone touchdowns last year against nine of each this season) is similar.

What has changed is that six of the 13 red-zone touchdown passes last season went to Cooley. This year, one of nine has, and that came 10 weeks ago.

Washington has entered the red zone on 39 series, but only seven passes have been thrown to Cooley in those situations (he caught five of them). In the past eight games, only two of those balls have gone his way. The Redskins reached the red zone 21 times in those games, compared with 18 penetrations the first five weeks.

Tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said Cooley's lack of touchdowns is "just the way things are working out" and not indicative of any drop-off in his play.

Still, the fact remains that while Cooley is on pace for the sixth-most catches in the history of a franchise that boasts four Hall of Fame receivers, only one has ever suffered such a large gap between catches and touchdowns.

Laveranues Coles caught 90 passes in 2004 and scored only one touchdown - and then pouted his way into a trade after the season.

"I've caught a lot of short passes, a lot of screens, [bootlegs]," Cooley said. "My production is basically better than any other tight end. The coaches are trying to get the ball in my hands."

Just not in the red zone.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 14, 2008

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