Despite turnover, veteran Santana Moss remains a steadying influence

Santana Moss was surrounded.

Music thumped in the locker room at Redskins Park. But the lyrics couldn’t drown Moss‘ words. So the television cameras and microphones swarmed, something that seems to happen each time the veteran wide receiver opens his mouth.

The phalanx of media almost buried the face of the Washington Redskins‘ offense.

Most of big names are gone — Donovan McNabb dispatched to the Minnesota Vikings, Clinton Portis looking for work — leaving Moss and fan-favorite tight end Chris Cooley as leaders of a largely anonymous group. With question marks at quarterback, an influx of young receivers and a reshuffled offensive line, Moss is the certainty in a unit buffeted by change.

“I’ve been here [six] years, and I never had the chance to grasp the offense,” Moss said. “There’s always been a change here or something there. It’s one of those moments where we have the advantage.”

Turnover has been Moss‘ companion since the Redskins acquired him from the New York Jets for Laveranues Coles in 2005.

Mike Shanahan is his third coach. Five men have called offensive plays. Six quarterbacks — remember Patrick Ramsey? - lobbed passes to him.

“I’ve played with so many quarterbacks, man,” Moss said. “Every year that goes by, it’s something new. But I never really think about it.”

The turnover hasn’t helped the Redskins‘ offense, ranked in the NFL’s bottom third in total offense over the past three seasons.

Last season’s total — 5,374 yards — ranked No. 18 in the league. It was the best in Moss‘ six seasons in Washington. Each time, he’s led the team in receiving.

But after Moss voided his contract in February, the onetime University of Miami walk-on re-signed with the Redskins in July. Other teams called. He didn’t talk to them.

The past shuffling on the roster, among the coaching staff and in the front office at Redskins Park couldn’t keep him away.

“If I’m going to still play, why go somewhere and start all over?” Moss said. “If we put the right people in the right places … we can really do some good things.”

That starts with feeling more at ease in his second year under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Last season, Moss caught a career-best 93 passes for 1,115 yards and six touchdowns. Kyle Shanahan used Moss more in the slot than he ever played there before while Anthony Armstrong ran deep patterns.

The relative familiarity of the offense, regardless of the quarterback, seems a luxury to Moss.

Mention Kyle Shanahan’s offense and Moss drops superlatives like a late-night infomercial: “dynamic,” “wide-open,” “opportunity to be great,” “able to prosper.” But some parts of the offense aren’t exactly as seen on television. A grab-bag of veterans such as Armstrong, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Terrence Austin and two rookies, Leonard Hankerson and Niles Paul, are battling for playing time alongside Moss at receiver.

“We have a lot to work on still,” Stallworth said. “But we’re moving in the right direction. That’s the most important thing.”

Added Kyle Shanahan: “I think everyone is more comfortable with what we’re doing, and I think it’s showing.”

Trent Williams, the hulking offensive tackle, echoed the sentiment. In his second year in the league, Williams felt obligated to assume a leadership role on the offensive line after the turnover.

Moss is where he looks for an example. For stability. Even a mentor.

And as the music blasted in the locker room and the cameras cloaked Moss, Williams grinned and revealed perhaps the lone weakness of the offense’s face.

“There’s not much,” Williams said, “he can tell me about blocking somebody.”

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