Jim Zorn: WIlling to Mix it Up for the Washington Redskins

John MckinnonCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2008

Art Monk, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and Larry Fitzgerald have all proven that big, talented receivers can change the entire tone of an offense. In fact, that one player can be the difference in a mediocre offense and one that keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

For the past two seasons it’s been evident that the Washington Redskins need some size at wideout. Santana Moss, Antwaan Randel-El, and others have occasionally made big plays, but more often than not their lack of height and mass have worked against them. Santana Moss, though blazing fast and talented, stands at about 5-foot-8 with Randel El maybe an inch or two taller.

By mid-season last year the Redskins were the only NFL Team without one wideout to cross the end zone for a touchdown.

Ironically, on Nov. 11 against the Eagles the Redskins finally managed three touchdown passes to wideouts James Thrash (6-foot, 200 lbs) and Keenan McCardell (6-foot-1, 190 lbs). It seemed Gibbs and company figured it out and even acquired former Giant’s receiver Anthony Mix (6-foot-5, 235 lbs).

However, the Gibbs II regime stayed true to form and acquired Mix only to stand on the sidelines and play special teams (i.e. T.J. Duckett, Reche Caldwell, and Brandon Lloyd).

When Jim Zorn was hired as an offensive coordinator and eventually (default) head coach, I was very critical of the move. In fact, the move supported the theory that Dan Snyder had no clue how to run a football team.

A couple of weeks ago, the Redskins brought in free agent wide receiver D.J. Hackett, who Zorn coached during his time as an offensive coordinator in Seattle. Zorn liked Hackett (6-foot-2, 200+ lbs) but informed him he wouldn’t overpay for his services. A couple of days later Hackett signed on with Carolina for an undisclosed amount.

I have to commend Zorn for his honesty and his backbone in the situation. After all, that type of candor has been a-synonymous with Redskin coaches since Gibbs I.

Zorn mentioned Anthony Mix in a recent interview. "Wow, he's a big receiver," Zorn said. "He's going to get an opportunity."

Zorn spoke of Mix and his size and even alluded to increasing his playing time contingent upon his performance. Mix humbly showed his appreciation for the compliment while accepting the challenge.

"It makes me feel great that they've identified me as being someone who has the talent, so that they want to give me a chance," Mix said. "I'm not nervous at all about it. I'm excited about it. A lot of people wait for that big break; this might be my big break."

How refreshing is that for Redskin’s fans? To have a guy with potential who’s getting paid a minimum salary and can’t wait to prove himself in conjunction with a coach who’s willing to give him a try and use him to the team’s advantage? Personally, it sounds better than anything I’ve heard in a long time coming from Redskin Park between February and September.

Of course this may not work out at all and Zorn could be a flop. However, if that’s the case, at least the Redskins aren’t overpaying players (so far) and appear to be focused on building through the Draft.

Even the worst case scenario should materialize a lot better than it did during the Norv Turner years when "Over The Hill" guys like Deion "Past Prime Time" Sanders and Bruce "If we played one more down I know I’d get a sack" Smith robbed the Skins blind with little production in return.

Zorn appears to be moving this team in the right direction, which might be a testament that the Redskins are on their way to more championship seasons. I’m not going to ask Tony Kornheiser to reserve a spot for me on the "Bandwagon" just yet, but I’ can’t resist being cautiously optimistic about the coming season. After all, with Jim Zorn putting guys like Anthony in the Mix (pun intended), how could a true Redskin fan not be excited?

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