Draft class in the dumps

They traded out of the first round, but the Washington Redskins still found plenty of reason for hoopla at the club’s headquarters on draft weekend in April.

The Redskins chose 10 players, including a trio of second-round selections — the biggest draft haul for the club in six years.

The draft, the first for executive vice president Vinny Cerrato since he assumed full control of football operations, looked even better when all 10 picks made the 53-man roster in September.

None of the rookies was expected to start this season — all of the starters returned from last season’s playoff team — but after five games the Redskins haven’t received much production from their ballyhooed draft class.

Safety Chris Horton, the last of the 10 draftees, is the lone exception. The seventh-round pick (No. 249 overall) started in place of the ill Reed Doughty in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints and won NFC defensive player of the week honors for a performance that included the interception of two deflected passes and a fumble recovery.

Horton moved into the lineup ahead of Doughty two weeks later against the Dallas Cowboys and made a critical interception, giving him five of Washington’s seven takeaways. Horton was named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the month for September.

“We would all love to have our young guys play, but we can only put them in as they develop,” coach Jim Zorn said. “I don’t know if I would say [I’m] surprised. Our guys are seeing that it’s much harder than it looks [to play in the NFL]. You’re the big man on campus and you’re the draft choice, and you get here and you’re one of the guys because everybody else is good, too.”

Neither Devin Thomas nor Malcolm Kelly, drafted to add size to the receiving corps, especially in the red zone, has ousted veteran James Thrash as the top backup to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Thomas has nearly as many pass interference penalties (three) as catches (four for 40 yards) and has struggled on short routes.

“We’ve tried to get Devin more and more involved, but he has to play more and more disciplined or he’s going to get less and less [playing time],” Zorn said. “He’s a tremendous talent, but he’s not ready to take on any kind of responsibility.”

Kelly missed the entire preseason with ankle and knee injuries and caught only one pass for 6 yards in the two games in which he has played. Zorn has criticized his route running.

Tight end Fred Davis, chosen between Thomas and Kelly in the second round, has a lone 6-yard catch and hasn’t dislodged veteran Todd Yoder as the backup to starter Chris Cooley, though Zorn said Davis is improving.

Offensive lineman Chad Rinehart, a third-round pick, has been listed as inactive in all five games. The Redskins started the same line each week except at right tackle, while Jon Jansen replaced the injured Stephon Heyer in the past two games.

Cornerback Justin Tryon bragged after the draft that he didn’t care what veterans the Redskins had at his position, but he has hardly played in the three games for which he has been active. Tryon, who suited up twice only because No. 1 corner Shawn Springs was ailing, has yet to record a statistic on defense or special teams.

“It’s disappointing, but I know have a lot to learn,” said Tryon, humbled by his rough preseason and his lack of action since.

Sixth-round pick Durant Brooks ousted incumbent punter Derrick Frost in a close competition this summer. But two of his line-drive punts already have been returned for touchdowns - Frost didn’t have one returned for a touchdown during his three-year tenure - and Brooks ranks last in the NFL in punting average.

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About the Author
David Elfin

David Elfin

David Elfin has been following Washington-area sports teams since the late 1960s. David began his journalism career at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., history) and Syracuse University (M.S., telecommunications). He wrote for the Bulletin (Philadelphia), the Post-Standard (Syracuse) and The Washington Post before coming to The Washington Times in 1986. He has covered colleges, the Orioles ...

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