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Life Without Santana Moss?

I don't want to think about it and neither does Mark Brunell who apparently said as much on "the Comcast show" according to a reader at Jason La Canfora's blog. How's that for a source?

Allegedly when pressed about a possible Sunday game without Moss, Mark Brunell responded: "I don't even want to think about life without Santana."

Unfortunately he might have to.

Wide receiver Santana Moss missed his fourth consecutive practice yesterday, signaling that the Washington Redskins' most important receiving option may be unavailable for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
It's become increasingly clear this week that Santana Moss may not be available for this Sunday's game against the Cowboys. This is potentially disastrous as anyone who watched last year's first game against the Cowboys knows that Moss pretty much single handedly beat them in the final minutes of the game.

For Brunell this is about the worst thing that could possibly happen. Santana Moss is Brunell's leading receiver and most recognized receiving target by a decent margin. Moss leads the team in receptions at 28, yards at 435, and has been targeted more than any other player at 48 passes thrown his way. Brunell has targeted Moss as much as he has thrown to Antwaan Randle-El and Brandon Lloyd combined meaning one of them will have to step up if we want a down field passing game against Dallas.

My major concern is that, in the absence of Santana Moss, Brunell will resort to short passes on or near the line of scrimmage more than he already does. 72% of Brunell's passes don't go farther than 10 yards down the field -- with Santana Moss in the game.

Our only hope is Chris Cooley who is the second most targeted receiver (though he is third on the team in receptions). The Cowboys were effective against us in a Cover 2 defense in week 2. One of the softer areas of that defense is the middle of the field, where Chris Cooley should be operating most of the game on Sunday. Unfortunately, despite success at passes in the middle (13 of 18 for 11.4 yards per attempt), Mark Brunell is throwing to the middle of the field just 9% of the time.

Mark Brunell's reluctance to throw to a receiver other than Santana Moss, combined with his (to a fault) compulsive urge to check the ball down to his RBs, could spell trouble this Sunday. To compare the two teams, Dallas has thrown at its running backs Julius Jones and Marion Barber 24 times for 12 receptions (pretty dismal catching percentage on their part). Ladell Betts, our backup running back has been thrown at 27 times, and 23 receptions (2nd on team).

Comparing the numbers:
Dallas -- total attempts 232 at RBs 24 or 10%
Redskins -- total attempts 206 at RBs 58 or 28%

Those numbers are with Santana Moss on the field, so even when Brunell has a WR he trusts enough to throw the ball at consistently he is still chucking it to the RBs over once every four throws. Without Santana Moss that number will probably increase. It's going to be very difficult to move the chains unless Brunell takes some chances throwing at ARE and Lloyd, targets he has ignored somewhat this year.

The bottom line is that this team is better off when Santana is on the field. I'll keep you posted on any developments in his recovery, though I'm starting to fear for the worst.

For those wondering about a possible Jason Campbell start against the Cowboy (incidentally Campbell has a better rapport with Brandon Lloyd than Brunell does), I wouldn't count on it. Brunell returned to practice today and is listed as probable. That's good news. Or bad. Depends who you ask.

I don't care who starts, just so long as we beat up the Cowboys.